Number of borrowers re-mortgaging surges by a third year-on-year

The number of re-mortgage loans being taken out jumped by around a third in April as home owners and landlords rushed to cushion themselves from future potential interest rate hikes.

Trade association UK Finance said speculation about a possible Bank of England base rate rise, as large numbers of customers approached the end of their existing mortgage deals, helped to drive the spike in re-mortgaging.

Many people locked themselves into fixed-rate deals, which give borrowers certainty over their repayments for a fixed length of time.

There were 40,800 new home owner re-mortgages completed in April - 36% more than in the same month a year earlier.

Meanwhile, there were 14,300 new buy-to-let remortgages completed in the month - 32.4% more than a year earlier.

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Jackie Bennett, director of mortgages at UK Finance, said: "Re-mortgaging activity bounced back to strong levels in April, as both home owners and landlords put their house in order by locking into attractive fixed-rate deals ahead of an anticipated interest rate rise.

"This spike in re-mortgaging was also driven by a large number of fixed-term mortgage deal rates coming to an end, combined with increased efforts by lenders to contact their customers before their deal rate expires."

UK Finance's figures also show there were 26,700 new first-time buyer mortgages completed in April, 3.5% more than in the same month a year earlier.

Some 25,100 new home mover mortgages completed in the month, 4.2% lower than the same month a year earlier.

And 5,000 new buy-to-let home purchase mortgages were handed out in April, 5.7% fewer than a year earlier.

Ms Bennett continued: "The number of first-time buyers has grown year-on-year, outstripping the number of home movers.

"This may reflect the impact of measures such as the recent stamp duty cut and the Help to Buy scheme that are focused on getting more people onto the housing ladder."

Writing on a blog on UK Finance's website, James Tatch, principal, analytics, at UK Finance said re-mortgaging activity has been heading upwards since around last May.

He said: "The history of re-mortgaging shows that borrowers in general are not reactive to a rate rise after it happens, nor do they act at the last minute.

"Rather, when a rate rise seems likely in the coming months, they increasingly act to lock into rates (where those rates are attractive) ahead of the curve."

He said substantial numbers of borrowers have been sitting on lenders' standard variable rates (SVRs) for some time.

Borrowers often end up on an SVR when their initial mortgage deal has ended.

Meanwhile, he said: "Anecdotally we know that lenders, as part of their retention strategies, are increasingly writing to their mortgage customers reminding them when their deal rate is coming to an end.

"And whilst many customers do then take out a new deal with their existing lender (product transfers), for others it may act as a trigger for re-mortgaging elsewhere."

Commenting on the UK Finance's figures, Andrew Montlake, director at mortgage broker Coreco, said: "What is most welcome is the fact that we are seeing more first-time buyers coming back to the market, buoyed by the stamp duty changes and keen to take advantage of cheap mortgage rates that often mean monthly mortgage payments are cheaper than renting in some areas.

"The issue, however, continues to be saving enough for a deposit and meeting tougher affordability criteria, with many prospective buyers hoping that house price growth continues to soften."

Mike Scott, chief property analyst at estate agent Yopa, said: "Where home owners are re-mortgaging to release equity some of it may find its way into their children's pockets to help with their first-time buyer deposits."