Mortgage affordability unchanged despite rising house prices, report finds

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Mortgage affordability has remained unchanged over the past year despite house prices climbing higher, a report has found.

Halifax calculated that new borrowers could expect to spend 30% of their take-home pay on their mortgage in the final quarter of 2016 - unchanged from the percentage a year earlier in the last three months of 2015.

The proportion has remained the same despite average house prices having increased by 7% over the past year.

Halifax assumed that a borrower, who could be a first-time buyer or a home mover, had a 30% deposit to put down. It used Bank of England figures to work out average mortgage rates and Office for National Statistics (ONS) data for average earnings figures.

Halifax said the percentage had remained at 30%, despite house prices going up, due to a further dip in mortgage rates during 2016.

The average percentage of borrowers' incomes taken up by mortgage payments is well below peak of 48% reached in the third quarter of 2007.

Martin Ellis, a housing economist at Halifax, said: "Looking back almost a decade, there has been a considerable improvement in housing affordability across the country, which has been maintained over the past year as further falls in mortgage rates have offset the effects of higher house prices."

Mortgage payments as a proportion of earnings are lowest in Scotland and Northern Ireland, Halifax said, taking up around a fifth of incomes.

In London, mortgage payments swallow up nearly half (48.6%) of earnings. London is the only region where mortgage payments are still above their long-term average as a proportion of earnings.

Halifax said Haringey in London is the least affordable local authority district in the country, with average mortgage payments on a new loan accounting for 68% of average local disposable earnings.

West Dunbartonshire in Scotland was identified as the most affordable local authority area, with mortgage payments taking up 15.4% of disposable earnings there.

Here are mortgage payments as a percentage of disposable earnings in the fourth quarter of 2016 across the UK, according to Halifax, followed by the long-term average percentage between 1983 and 2013:

:: North East, 22.8%, 29.1%

:: Yorkshire and the Humber, 22.8%, 28.3%

:: North West, 23.9%, 29.3%

:: East Midlands, 23.2%, 32.7%

:: West Midlands, 28.4%, 35.9%

:: East Anglia, 28.1%, 35.1%

:: South West, 34.3%, 41.6%

:: South East, 41.3%, 46.8%

:: London, 48.6%, 43.5%

:: Wales, 22.3%, 31.7%

:: Scotland, 19.8%, 28.5%

:: Northern Ireland, 20.2%, 28.7%