New mortgages hit six-year high



New mortgage borrowing reached a six-year high in April in a reflection of rising housing market activity, high street banks have reported.

Some £12.2 billion-worth of mortgages were taken out last month, which is 52% higher than a year ago and the strongest monthly total seen since August 2008, the British Bankers' Association (BBA) said.

But the report said that despite the upswing in terms of the total value of home loans which have been handed out, its figures paint a "mixed" picture for the housing market.

In a sign of what is to come, it said that mortgage approvals have been dropping off for three months in a row.

Some 42,173 mortgage approvals for house purchase with a total value of £6.9 billion were recorded in April, which is the lowest number seen in eight months.

Mortgage approvals for home-buyers have been dropping each month since more than 48,000 were recorded in January. But compared with April last year, mortgage approvals for house purchases last month were still 25% higher.

Government mortgage support schemes such as Help to Buy, which was fully fired into action last autumn, have been helping first-time buyers and housing chains.

The BBA's figures also showed that business borrowing has contracted by 1.9% over the year to April, although the report said this is an improvement compared with an annual contraction rate of 5.1% in April last year.

Richard Woolhouse, chief economist at the BBA, said: "Our figures show the housing market is mixed.
The value of mortgages taken out in April was the highest for six years. However, looking ahead,
mortgage approvals have fallen three months in a row.

"The amount of borrowing is, however, still well below the levels we were seeing before the financial crisis."

A mortgage lending crackdown was introduced under the Mortgage Market Review (MMR) last month, which means that people applying for a home loan face more probing questions about their spending habits to make sure they can afford their mortgage repayments, both now and as and when interest rates rise.

Some reports of strong house price rises have prompted speculation that further action could be taken by the Bank of England to calm the market, amid concerns over the impact that a potential housing bubble could have on the recovering economy.

There have also been signs that banks themselves are taking steps to put more curbs on lending.

Britain's biggest mortgage lender, Lloyds Banking Group, recently imposed a new cap for higher-value lending, which means that people applying to take out a mortgage worth more than £500,000 will see the amount they are allowed to borrow limited to four times their income.

Jonathan Harris, director of mortgage broker Anderson Harris, said the BBA's figures show that "this is not a market running away with itself".

He said: "The introduction of the Mortgage Market Review may be having an effect: while it's still early days, with many lenders introducing the new rules weeks ahead of the official launch, its impact may already be starting to be felt."

The BBA's figures also show that non-mortgage borrowing has increased by 1.4% over the past year.
Within this, people's borrowing on cards has grown by 3.5% over the last year, while borrowing on personal loans and overdrafts has edged down by 0.5%.

The report said that £8.1 billion in new spending was put on credit cards in April, which is 4.9% more than in the same month a year earlier.

It said: "Higher loan demand continues to reflect rising consumer confidence and an improving economy."

The people who affect house prices

The people who affect house prices