"There was the usual dip in both first-time buyers and home-movers post the December festive period, but mortgage lending in both segments increased compared to the same period in 2017"
The latest data from UK Finance has shown a steady strengthening of the UK property market despite fears over Brexit and increasing political uncertainty.
According to the most recent report, there were 49,800 new homeowner remortgages completed in January, 19.1% more than in the same month a year earlier and the highest monthly number of remortgages since November 2008. The £8.9bn of remortgaging in January 2018 was 20.3% higher year-on-year.
First-time buyer completions saw an annual rise of 7% to 24,500 and homemovers increased by 6.4% to 25,000.
Buy-to-let lending slipped 5.1% but buy-to-let remortgaging was up by an impressive 17.9% against the same period a year earlier to 16,500.
Jackie Bennett, director of mortgages at UK Finance, said: “Remortgaging in January reached a nine-year high, as a number of fixed rate mortgages came to an end while borrowers locked into attractive deals amid expectations of further interest rate rises.
While an increase in remortgaging is expected in the New Year as people put their household finances in order, this strong growth is above the seasonal fluctuations we tend to see at this time of year.
There was the usual dip in both first-time buyers and home-movers post the December festive period, but mortgage lending in both segments increased compared to the same period in 2017.
However, growth in the buy-to-let market remains subdued, reflecting the ongoing impact of recent tax and regulatory changes.”
Richard Pike, Phoebus Software sales and marketing director, had this to say: “We are now seeing the expected surge in remortgages following the initial interest rate rise from the Bank of England. The threat of further rate rises is likely to mean remortgage activity will remain high, as borrowers look to secure a favourable rate. However, the Bank of England was given something to think about yesterday as the forecast for inflation, announced in the Spring Statement, shows it returning to target sooner than expected. We were warned by the Governor to expect further rate rises, but perhaps his warning was premature.”
Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, added: "It is no surprise that remortgaging levels are so high with borrowers worried about potential interest rate rises on the horizon. Many are choosing to lock into longer-term fixes of five years, as rates are still extremely competitive, even though they are now on the rise so it may be wise not to hang around for too long."
Jeremy Leaf, north London estate agent and former RICS residential chairman, commented: "The increase in new first-time buyer mortgages in January is a particularly good sign for the market at a time when it tends to be finding its feet at the beginning of the year and a response to the abolition of stamp duty in November, which was touched upon by the Chancellor in the Spring Statement. First-time buyers are taking advantage of a more level playing field, borne out by the reduction in buy-to-let purchases, now that investors are subject to stricter tax regulation and lending criteria.
The increase in new home mover mortgages is also encouraging and points towards a relatively stable start to 2018."
Simon Heawood, CEO of Bricklane.com, comments: “Coupled with the Chancellor’s pledge to increase housing supply, this data showing a 7% year on year rise in the number of first time buyers will further boost optimism for imminent first time buyers. We would like to see more support for Generation Rent to save enough to build up a deposit and get on the first rung of the property ladder, so that this encouraging trend upwards is made sustainable. The government and industry must look at innovative ways of helping first time buyers save up for their first home deposit.”