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Mortgage lending jumped by 21% in March – but the headline figures still show a drop in lending from the end of last year.
Banks and building societies advanced £11.3 billion in March – up from £9.3 billion in February.
Although the figure will cheer homebuyers and sellers, once put in perspective with other recent lending trends, the increase seems more of an adjustment for lenders to get back on track rather than the start of a mortgage revival.
The March lending figure is down slightly compared with £11.5 billion lent in March 2010 and total mortgage lending for the first quarter of 2011 stands at £30.1 billion – 11% down on the £33.9 billion advanced in the last quarter of 2010 and a tiny 1% up on the £29.7 billion borrowed in the same quarter last year.
Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) chief economist Bob Pannell said: “The housing market has emerged hesitantly from hibernation. Household finances are under a lot of pressure, and as a result demand for house purchase loans fell in the first three months of 2011. Lenders expect mortgage credit availability to improve this quarter, and this should help to underpin house purchase activity albeit at low levels.
“Remortgage demand, meanwhile, continues to firm, presumably linked to expectations of higher base rates. Remortgage approvals in February were the highest for more than two years. Stronger remortgage activity looks set to continue propping up overall lending.”
The CML also revealed underlying monthly mortgage approvals for buying homes has stayed below 50,000 for more than a year.
Meanwhile, house price trends have changed little, with indicators describing a picture that is one of stability or modest decline in recent months.
The CML also predicts a strong remortgage market is underpinning overall lending, but the market is unlikely to see any great improvement in lending levels during the current quarter, ending June.
Confidence seems good – with lenders easing lending terms by increasing loan-to-values and relaxing borrowing conditions – but this is not feeding through to any changes in the property market.
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