Mortgage approvals at 13-year high in 2020

Mortgage approvals at 13-year high in 2020
Credit: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Mortgage approvals for house purchase were 3.7 per cent higher last year than in 2019, despite having fallen to a record low in May.

House purchase approvals, which dropped to 9,400 in May, totalled 818,500 last year and marked the highest number in one year since 2007.

By comparison, 2019 saw 789,100 approvals.

Mark Harris, chief executive of SPF Private Clients, said the figures showed the “resilience” of the housing market, with cheap mortgage products contributing to an uptick in lending in the second half of the year.

Analysis from Moneyfacts found the difference between the average two- and five-year fixed rates last year had fallen to its lowest level since 2013.

But Mr Harris also warned of lenders making changes leading up to the stamp duty holiday deadline.

He commented: “As we head towards the deadline for taking advantage of the stamp duty holiday, lenders are navigating a fine line between the need for volume and market share versus risk appetite and service.

“Borrowers shouldn’t be surprised by chopping and changing on rates and products as lenders deal with unprecedented circumstances.”

Vida Homeloans, for example, has removed all products for new purchase applications as it manages its existing pipeline in light of the stamp duty holiday deadline and current Help to Buy scheme closing on March 31.

While house purchase approvals were up year-on-year, Chris Sykes, associate director at Private Finance, said he had seen a significant decline in purchase enquiries in the last few weeks.

He said: “We believe this is due to the end of the stamp duty holiday approaching and buyers holding off to see what happens and whether it is extended or not.”

Mr Sykes added: “If the holiday is extended we can expect an increase in purchase enquiries almost immediately.”

Data for January showed house price growth had slowed for the first time in six months, to 6.4 per cent, from 7.3 per cent in December.

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