Mortgages  

Mortgage approvals up nearly 10%

Mortgage approvals up nearly 10%

The number of people being approved for a mortgage increased by nearly 10 per cent in March.

The latest data from UK Finance showed the number of approvals for home purchase were 9.3 per cent higher in March 2019 than the same month the year before.

Year-on-year, the number of people getting approved to remortgage increased by 11.1 per cent.

Gross mortgage lending across the residential market in March 2019 was £20bn - 0.5 per cent lower than the same month in 2018.

This fall was mainly seen in high street banks, where lending dropped by 3.5 per cent year-on-year.

Gareth Lewis, commercial director of property lender MT Finance, said the subdued lending in the first quarter came as no surprise due to the uncertainty surrounding Brexit.

He said: “There was never going to be a huge growth in lending in the first quarter. However, as far as the second quarter of the year and beyond is concerned, if the levels of activity we are seeing are anything to go by, the picture may be changing. 

“With Brexit pushed back, far enough away for people to forget about it a little, and with fewer column inches in the papers, this is all a positive as it stops people from worrying about it too much. 

“They are getting on with life, looking at opportunities to improve their portfolios - from an investment point of view, Brexit is getting less attention now, which has to be a good thing.”

Jeremy Leaf, north London estate agent and a former RICS residential chairman, said: “Mortgage approvals for home purchase are always a useful lead indicator of future market activity and these are no exception. 

“They confirm what we have been seeing on the ground and in other surveys — that transactions are holding up reasonably well despite political and economic distractions as might be expected at this time of year. 

“However, it is still tough to find common ground between even realistic buyers and sellers, and sales are certainly taking considerably longer, not least because as we are finding, buy-to-let investors have not been replaced completely by first-time buyers. 

“The picture is very patchy and can vary considerably between areas which are quite close together and between London and elsewhere.”

imogen.tew@ft.com