Mortgage payments most affordable in four years, analysis reveals

Mortgage payments reached their most affordable levels in over four years in the last three months of 2017, analysis has found.

Typical mortgage payments accounted for less than a third (29%) of homeowners' disposable income in the fourth quarter of 2017, compared with nearly half (48%) in 2007, Halifax said.

It said the significant improvement in affordability had been driven by historically low mortgage rates, despite the first base rate rise in a decade in November.

The 29% figure was the lowest since the second quarter of 2013, when mortgage affordability stood at 26.3% of incomes. It is also the lowest percentage seen for any fourth quarter in a decade.

While mortgage payments are at their lowest as a proportion of disposable earnings in Northern Ireland (19%), Scotland and the North East (both 20%), Yorkshire and the Humber and the North West (both 23%), they are highest in London (45%), the South East (40%) and South West (34%).

The findings were based on mortgage payments for a new borrower, including both first-time buyers and home movers.

Average house prices and mortgage rates were used for someone with a 30% deposit.

The finding that mortgage payments take up around 29% of wages is well below the long-term average of 35%, Halifax said.

Andy Bickers, mortgage director at Halifax, said: "In recent months we have seen the number of first-time buyers and home movers purchasing a home with a mortgage bounce back towards 2007 levels."

Halifax used Bank of England and Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures to make its calculations.

Here is how mortgage affordability varies by region, according to Halifax (mortgage payments as a percentage of disposable income):
- North East, 20.6%
- Yorkshire and the Humber, 23%
- North West, 23.1%
- East Midlands, 26.9%
- West Midlands, 29.0%
- East Anglia, 28.4%
- South West, 33.8%
- South East, 40.2%
- London, 44.8%
- Wales, 24.8%
- Scotland, 20.1%
- Northern Ireland, 18.8%

Here are the top 10 most affordable areas according to Halifax:
1. Copeland, North West, 14.9%
2. Inverclyde, Scotland, 15.7%
3. North Ayrshire, Scotland, 15.9%
4. West Dunbartonshire, Scotland, 16.2%
5. Renfrewshire, Scotland, 16.4%
=6. East Ayrshire, Scotland, 16.6%
=6. Pendle, North West, 16.6%
=8. Burnley, North West, 16.7%
=8. Hyndburn, North West, 16.7%
10. Barrow-in-Furness, North West, 16.9%

And here are the 10 least affordable areas according to Halifax:
1. Brent, London, 61.1%
2. Haringey, London, 60.5%
3. Harrow, London, 57.7%
4. Elmbridge, South East, 56.3%
5. Hillingdon, London, 56.2%
6. Ealing, London, 55.7%
7. Islington, London, 55.1%
8. Barnet, London, 55.0%
9. Hackney, London, 54.9%
10. Chichester, South East, 54.0%