Mortgage approvals fall to lowest levels in a year


The number of mortgages being approved to home buyers fell back to its lowest levels in around a year in June, Bank of England figures show.

Some 64,766 loans for house purchase with a total value of £11.2 billion got the go-ahead in June, marking the lowest number since May 2015.

And continuing a trend seen in previous reports from the Bank, its Money and Credit report also showed that consumer credit is growing at its fastest rate since 2005.

Consumer credit recorded a 12-month growth rate of 10.3% in June, marking the highest figure seen since late 2005.

The Bank said consumer credit increased by £1.8 billion in June, compared with an average of £1.5 billion over the previous six months.

Within consumer credit, credit card lending increased by £559 million in June, higher than an average of around £400 million over the previous six months.

Other loans and advances - which includes lending using personal loans and overdrafts - saw a £1.3 billion increase - marking the biggest upswing since October 2007.

Fears have been raised that some borrowers may be tempted to over-stretch themselves in the low interest rate environment.

Figures released by the Insolvency Service this week showed personal insolvencies were up by more than one fifth between April and June compared with a year earlier.

Experts have said it is concerning that personal insolvencies are up at a time when the cost of interest on debts is relatively cheap.

Jane Tully, director of external affairs at the Money Advice Trust, the charity that runs National Debtline, said: "The continued surge in consumer credit is reinforcing our concern that some households risk being left exposed to financial difficulty, if the economy does indeed suffer in the wake of the EU referendum result.

"Most people are currently able to handle the extra borrowing they have taken on, but a minority are still struggling with the impact of the last decade's squeeze on household incomes. This extra borrowing could become even more difficult to repay if there is a halt to the UK's economic recovery."

The housing market has faced disruption this year from a stamp duty hike that came into force for buy-to-let investors on April 1, prompting many investors to bring forward purchases that may otherwise have taken place in the year.

The EU referendum result has injected further uncertainty into the housing market, with some experts suggesting potential buyers and sellers may take a pause while the impact on the wider economy becomes clearer.

Jonathan Harris, director of mortgage broker Anderson Harris, said: "September's data will give a much better indication of how recent events have impacted the housing market - we would normally expect an increase in approvals for house purchase as people return from their summer holidays and start making decisions again but we will see."

Andrew McPhillips, chief economist at Yorkshire Building Society, added: "We expect market activity to remain relatively subdued as people wait to see how the outcome of the referendum affects the wider economy...

"That said, people's desire to own a property remains strong, which should support mortgage demand in the coming years."