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The first three months of 2020 saw a rise in mortgage lending before the coronavirus lockdown took hold.

Gross mortgage advances in the first quarter of 2020 totalled £65.8 billion, 3.8% higher than in Q1 2019, the latest figures from the Bank of England show.

This takes the outstanding value of all residential mortgages loans to £1,509 billion at the end of March 2020, which is a rise of 3.9% from a year earlier

The value of new mortgage lending agreed to be advanced in the coming months was 6.1% higher than the previous year, at £67.6 billion.

Almost three quarters (73.2%) of the share of gross advances had interest rates of less than 2% above Bank Rate in Q1 2020. This is 10.2% lower than a year ago and was driven by the 65bp cut in Bank Rate in March rather than any significant change in mortgage interest rates.

The share of mortgages advanced in Q1 2020 with loan-to-value ratios exceeding 90% was 5.2%,up by 0.7% from a year ago.

Buy-to-let lending, including house purchase, remortgage and further advance, represents a 14% share of gross mortgage lending, unchanged from Q1 2019.The value of outstanding balances with some arrears increased by 1.8% over the quarter to £13.7 billion, and now accounts for 0.91% of outstanding mortgage balances.

Commenting on the figures, Mark Harris said: “The Bank of England data relates to the first quarter of the year when the impact of Covid-19 had not yet been felt.

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“While this makes it feel very historic, it does show what might have been had the pandemic not hit, with an increase in gross mortgage advances compared with the previous year, as well as the value of new mortgage commitments.

High LTV

Harris continued: “The share of mortgages advanced to borrowers requiring a loan-to-value greater than 90% was 5.2%, an increase on the previous year, illustrating the level of demand for high LTV deals.

“With lenders including Accord, Clydesdale and Virgin Money pulling out of the 90% LTV market this week owing to high demand, after only recently returning when physical valuations were once again allowed, there is clearly a need for the big lenders to commit to this market.

“The number of people taking out high LTV mortgages in the second quarter is likely to fall considerably, not due to lack of demand but lack of products available.

A spokesperson for Virgin Money commented: “We’ve been one of only a few lenders offering 10% deposit products, however we have seen strong increases in demand from customers with small deposits.

“To protect the service for existing customers as well as pipeline applications, we are temporarily withdrawing our 90% LTV products. These products will still be available for existing customers looking to do a product switch. This change means we can continue to focus on providing existing customers with the level of service they’ve come to expect.

Buy-to-let

Referring to the buy-to-let figures, Harris said: “Encouragingly, buy-to-let lending was stable, even though the sector has come in for a lot of change on the tax and regulatory front. Investors are adapting to the new environment and tailoring their portfolios accordingly.

“The impact of tenants unable to pay their rent is providing a further challenge for landlords, although of course this won’t be apparent until the second quarter figures.’

By Joanne Atkin

Source: Mortgage Finance Gazette

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