Banks report their strongest mortgage business since 2008

Weakness in buy-to-let and home movers has been offset by an increase in first-time buyers and re-mortgage lending
Weakness in buy-to-let and home movers has been offset by an increase in first-time buyers and re-mortgage lending

Banks and building societies have reported their strongest January mortgage lending figure since 2008 amid signs that the market is holding up “pretty well”.

The Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) said an estimated £18.9 billion-worth of home loans were handed out in January - the strongest lending total for the month of January since loans totalling £25.2 billion were advanced in January 2008.

Last month’s lending total is 6% lower than December, but 2% higher than January 2016, when £18.6 billion was advanced.

CML economist Mohammad Jamei said: “Overall mortgage lending continues to hold up pretty well, but we seem to have a twin-track market.

“Weakness in buy-to-let and home movers has been offset by an increase in first-time buyers and re-mortgage lending.

“A continuing acute shortage of homes being offered for sale is one aspect of a broken housing market, that looks unlikely to resolve in the near term.”

Buy-to-let lending became more subdued following a stamp duty hike for buy-to-let investors imposed in April 2016.

But there have been signs of strong re-mortgage lending in recent months as borrowers have taken advantage of the low rates on offer.

The Government recently unveiled a package of plans to boost the supply of housing, including speeding up the house-building process and encouraging innovation from smaller builders, as well as helping renters.

Andrew McPhillips, chief economist at Yorkshire Building Society, said: “This annual growth in mortgage lending was most likely driven by an increase in the number of people re-mortgaging to better rates, offsetting the impact of a fall in property transactions.

“Affordability constraints, caused by increasing house prices, the cost of stamp duty and rising inflation, are still hindering the market by limiting the number of people who can afford a property.”