Mortgage lending jumps as buy-to-let investors bid to beat stamp duty hike

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Banks and building societies have reported their strongest mortgage lending total for the month of February since 2008 as buy-to-let investors rushed to beat a looming stamp duty hike.

An estimated £17.6 billion-worth of mortgages were handed out last month, marking a jump of nearly one third (30%) compared with February 2015, the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) said.

The CML said the latest figure is the highest for the month of February since £24.1 billion-worth of home loans were handed out in February 2008.

From April 1, people buying second homes, such as landlords investing in buy-to-let properties, will face a three percentage point stamp duty increase on current rates.

CML economist Mohammad Jamei said that lending is continuing on a "positive note", underpinned by wage growth and competitive mortgage deals.

He continued: "But we think it unlikely that there will be any significant acceleration in lending. While there may be a slight current boost to lending as some transactions seek to complete before the April 1 tax changes in the buy-to-let sector, this is likely to be followed by a slight fall in activity.

"Affordability pressures continue to weigh on activity, as does the low number of properties coming on the market, though this has been improving very recently."

The latest monthly lending total is still down by 5% compared with January 2016, when mortgage lending totalled £18.5 billion.

Peter Rollings, chief executive of estate agent Marsh and Parsons, said: "We're on the final stretch now before the April 1 stamp duty changes come into force, and this has front-loaded buy-to-let lending into these early months of the year.

"But once the deadline passes it will quickly revert to business as usual, and a subsidence in buy-to-let borrowing will likely water down the growth in the mortgage market."