Mortgage affordability is best on record, say lenders

Mortgage affordability has reached its best levels on record, according to lenders' analysis of new borrowing.

First-time buyers were typically putting 17.8% of their monthly household income towards paying off their mortgage in September, according to the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML). The figure, which includes capital and interest repayments, is the lowest percentage seen since the CML's records started in 2005.

Mortgage costs for home movers also reached a historic low in September, with repayments typically taking up 17.7% of their monthly household income on average.

Low interest rates are keeping mortgage costs relatively affordable, despite the sharp house price increases seen in some parts of the UK in recent years.

Paul Smee, director general of the CML, said the latest figures reflect the Bank of England's recent cut in the base rate to 0.25%. Lenders have slashed many of the mortgage rates available following the cut.

Mr Smee said: "Mortgage affordability reached an historic low in September, for both first-time buyers and home movers, which partly reflects the re-pricing of mortgages following August's base rate cut.

"This should help turn strong appetite for home ownership into a reality as we approach the closing months of the year."

The CML's figures also showed that homeowners borrowed a total of £11.4 billion for house purchases in September, down by 7% month-on-month but up by 4% year-on-year.

First-time buyers borrowed £4.9 billion, down by 4% on August but up by 14% on September 2015.

Buy-to-let lending was also showing signs of continuing to be affected by a stamp duty hike for this sector, which came into force in April.

Landlords borrowed £2.8 billion in September, down by 7% month-on-month and by 22% year-on-year.

Mr Smee continued: "House purchase activity appears to have steadied, we may not be seeing huge increases in activity on the scale of 2013-14 but there is a consistency in the levels in recent months."

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In Scotland, Edinburgh is seen as a city with huge growth potential. In 2014, prices in Edinburgh were up 10% in a post referendum boom that shows little sign of slowing down.

Local agents are not expecting quite such stellar growth for the next 12 months, but they think price rises will be well above the average predicted for the whole country.

Rightmove named this as the area where it expects house prices to grow the most over the next five years. It says that over this period there will be a huge number of people moving out of London in order to afford to get onto the property ladder. They want a reasonable commute combined with plenty of attractions in the local area, and Southampton offers all this. With relatively affordable housing stock, it's a prime candidate for growth.

Luton was Rightmove's candidate for the second biggest house price rises over the next five years. It emphasised that this isn't a mater of opinion, it is the result of crunching the data.

Luton is another major beneficiary of the move out of London, and while it is arguably not as attractive a place to live as Southampton, it's only 23 minutes into central London - which rivals some of inner London's commuter times. With average prices of £179,368, it's clearly a far more affordable option, and the area has already started to show signs of a boom.

This was the third area suggested by Rightmove. As with Southampton, it is well positioned for London commuters, and also has huge local attractions.

A survey last year asked young professionals to name the place they would most like to live, and Brighton and Hove were the only areas that appeared on the list outside London.

One of the reasons it's not higher up the list is that houses are already on the pricey side, with an average cost of £338,956 - up 13% in the past year alone.

There may be few people who grow up with the dream of living in Swindon, but the electrification of the rail line to London will bring travel times down across the West Country, so Swindon becomes part of the outer commuter area.

Given that the average property costs £168, 968, it's easy to see why Swindon will be a popular option for commuters on a tight budget.

Bath is also going to benefit from electrification of the line, because the commute to London will fall to a manageable 70 minutes. The beauty of the city - along with a vibrant social and cultural life - makes it a clear choice for more long-distance commuters.

Of course, with an average asking price of £374,617, it's not a tremendously cheap place to buy, but the geography of the city restricts development, so these prices are expected to rise still further.

Property Frontiers says that the booming house prices in Oxford are set to get even higher. At the moment, travel to London takes 60 minutes, but this will reduce even further in 2016 when the line is electrified. Prices in the most desirable parts of the centre aren't much cheaper than London.

However, further out there are pockets of affordability, and when the Water Eaton station opens in 2015 it will open up areas to the north of the city too.

Manchester has seen enormous property price rises over the last couple of years, and Property Frontiers expects this to continue into 2015.

Other commentators are expecting the growth to slow over the next few years, especially given the gains made since 2012. However, demand for properties remains buoyant, and with the growth of the local economy, price rises seem inevitable.

Rising prices in London have pushed buyers further and further out of the centre, so estate agents are now claiming zone three as 'the new zone 2'.

Savills believes that the biggest gains over the next five years will be the less glamorous districts - putting the South and East in the frame. Gritty areas that could benefit include Ladywell, Streatham and Catford in the south, and Leytonstone, Forest Gate and Walthamstow in the east.

Cambridge could also perform well. It has already had house prices lifted by the growth of tech companies to the north of the city, and the arrival of pharmaceutical headquarters will help push prices up further.

In 2016 a new rail service from the city to the science park will keep prices rising, and beyond the opportunities presented by the local economy, Cambridge is also part of the 'outer commute' area of London, which Savills expects to shoot up in value over the next five years.

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