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Gross lending across resi market stagnates: UK finance

Gross mortgage lending across the residential market was £20bn in March 2019, 0.5 per cent lower than in March 2018, according to data collected by UK Finance.

However, the number of mortgages approved by main high street banks last month was 9.1 per cent higher than a year prior.

The data also shows that the approvals for home purchases in March 2019 were 9.3 per cent higher, remortgage approvals were up 11.1 per cent, and approvals for secured borrowing rose 1.7 per cent rise year-on-year.

MT Finance commercial director Gareth Lewis comments: “These numbers come as no surprise – gross lending is subdued because the first quarter has been stagnant as a result of the Brexit wait.

“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.

North London estate agent Jeremy Leaf says: “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.”

Responsible Lending managing director Keith Haggart adds: “Mortgage approvals can move in waves as market trends and sentiment suck customers in and these peaks produce just as many troughs.

“A large jump in remortgages follows the same pattern, as several strong months for remortgaging early last year gave way to a particular slow month for overall approvals.

“The fact that gross mortgage lending is down slightly is a concern. Ultimately it means home purchasers and owners are not throwing as much money into the property market.

“That does not bode well for the transactions crisis, with historically low volumes of properties changing hands, which does not look like it will right itself in any great rush.”

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