Lack of homes for sale set to hit mortgage lending activity


Mortgage lending activity is expected to be less driven by people buying a home in the coming months amid a continued lack of supply in the property market, according to banks and building societies.

The Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) said it expects lending to be driven more by people remortgaging, rather than purchasing a house.

The CML said remortgage activity now accounts for just over 40% of lending, compared to about a third over the last few years. It said this trend is likely to continue in the near future.

The body said that while demand for homes remains strong, the lack of people putting their homes on the market continues to be an obstacle for would-be borrowers.

Figures from the CML show mortgage lending held steady in October, with an estimated £20.6 billion worth of home loans handed out.

This closely matches September's gross lending total of £20.5 billion and is 5% lower than the £21.8 billion advanced in October 2015.

The CML said total lending has been "stable" over the last few months - adding: "At this rate, it looks likely that gross lending for the whole of 2016 will be between £240-245 billion, which would represent a 10-12% rise compared to 2015."

Mohammad Jamei, a senior economist at the CML, said: "Housing market sentiment is holding up well, with demand still strong. This has led to a pick up in approvals, as expected.

"The more pressing issue is on the supply side, where the lack of private sellers continues to be an obstacle for would-be borrowers.

"For this reason, we expect lending in the months ahead to be driven more by remortgaging activity and less by house purchases. Remortgaging will be helped by competitively priced mortgage deals, which are encouraging borrowers to refinance."

The CML pointed to recent figures from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics), showing the average number of properties on the market per surveyor has fallen to its lowest level for nearly 40 years.

The CML said on its website: "The impact of this is that it limits the number of potential transactions, as well as pushing up prices, as the relatively few properties up for sale are bid up by a growing number of buyers."

The body said that while first-time buyers have had support from various schemes, the "real weakness" in the market is coming from people trying to take their second step on the property ladder and other home movers, among whom activity has continued to be fairly subdued since the financial crisis.

It said: "To put this into context, it was fairly typical for first-time buyers to make up just over a third of house purchases in the early 2000s. They now make up about half of house purchases."

Buy-to-let investors have also been affected by stricter affordability criteria as well as a recent stamp duty hike for this sector, the CML said.

Chancellor Philip Hammond announced this week that the Bank of England's Financial Policy Committee (FPC) will be granted new powers from early 2017 to place limits on buy-to-let mortgage lending.