Re-mortgage approvals surge as home owners look to beat potential rate rises

The number of re-mortgage approvals being made has surged to an eight-year high as home owners move to grab cheaper rates ahead of any potential rise, according to a high street banking report.

Some 30,774 re-mortgage approvals were recorded in December - the highest monthly figure since October 2008 - figures from the British Bankers' Association (BBA) show.

The re-mortgaging figure was nearly a third (30%) higher than December 2015, reflecting borrowers' desire to lock in cheaper rates now ahead of any potential rise, the BBA said.

Some 43,228 mortgage approvals for house purchase were also recorded in December, which was slightly up on December 2015.

Overall, the number of re-mortgage approvals last year was 15% higher than in 2015 - but the number of house purchase approvals across 2016 was 4.1% lower than it had been a year earlier.

Dr Rebecca Harding, chief economist at the BBA, said: "Re-mortgaging approvals were 30% higher than December 2015, reflecting borrowers' desire to 'lock in' lower interest rates ahead of a potential rise later this year."

Dr Harding said: "Overall, we've seen high levels of consumer and business borrowing, although there are early indications that 2017 could see softer demand for credit from business and households, as they anticipate future interest rate rises and wait for further clarity on Brexit."

The BBA's figures show annual growth in consumer credit increased to 6.6% in December.

The BBA said this was partly fuelled by favourable interest rates on personal loans.

Borrowing by non-financial companies decreased by £2.8 billion in December, with a seasonal fall in borrowing by the construction and agricultural sectors being the main contributors to the fall, the report said.

But across 2016 as a whole, borrowing by non-financial companies grew at an annual rate of 2%.

The report said lower demand for finance may reflect companies reducing investment plans and preferring to use internal funds rather than borrowing.

Dr Harding continued: "Reduced demand for business borrowing may signal plans for investment are being deferred or funded through retained earnings until there is more certainty on the UK's economic prospects after Brexit."

There have also been signs of people shoring up more cash in their bank accounts amid uncertainty over the economy.

The BBA said personal deposits "have been growing more strongly in recent months", and their annual growth stood at 4.1% in December.

Across 2016, the amount of money held in personal deposits grew by £32.8 billion, compared with £25.4 billion in 2015.