Mortgage lending to home buyers 'reaches busiest February levels since 2007'

Mortgage lending to home buyers has reached its highest levels for February in over a decade, a trade association has reported.

Some 50,000 mortgages were handed out to first-time buyers or home movers in February this year - the highest figure for that month seen since 2007, UK Finance said.

Within this total, 25,200 first-time buyer mortgages were handed out in February 2018, 2.4% more than in the same month a year earlier.

There were 24,800 home mover mortgages completed in the month, the same as in February a year earlier.

Meanwhile, there were 35,400 new home owner re-mortgages completed in February, 11.3% more than in the same month a year earlier.

Buy-to-let lending for house purchase was down compared with a year earlier, but there was an annual jump in landlords re-mortgaging.

There were 5,200 buy-to-let house purchase mortgages completed in the month, 8.8% down on the same month a year earlier.

And 14,100 buy-to-let re-mortgages were completed, 20.5% more than a year earlier.

Jackie Bennett, director of mortgages at UK Finance, said: "Home buyers have shaken off the winter blues, with house purchases by first-time buyers and home movers reaching their highest levels for February in over a decade.

"Re-mortgages are also up year-on-year, as home owners look to fix costs amid anticipation of further interest rate rises.

"Meanwhile the buy-to-let market continues to operate at stable but subdued levels, due in part to the impact of recent legislative and tax changes."

Jeremy Leaf, a north London estate agent and a former residential chairman of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics), said: "These numbers are encouraging because they underline the fact that you write off this market at your peril.

"Buyers and sellers are showing, once again, that those prepared to negotiate hard are still getting on with their lives, albeit at slightly softer price levels."

James Cameron, director of property management company Vesper Homes, said: "On the one hand, UK landlords have slowed down on making new purchases or stopped buying properties for investment purposes altogether.

"But in the main, they are keeping their current portfolios intact as opposed to selling up and risking not getting the price they want.

"On the other hand there is still a pool of investors who are cash rich but looking at property investment opportunities over the next five years - particularly those with higher yields and low entry prices."

He continued: "Re-mortgaging figures are strong for landlords as they try to maximise the earning potential of their investments, with many landlords taking this opportunity to raise money."