Mortgage market sees strongest start to the year in four years

The mortgage market saw its strongest start to a year since 2008, according to the latest Housing Market Activity Report by Connells Survey and Valuation.

The total number of residential valuations conducted during the first quarter of 2012 was 10% higher than in the previous quarter, a rise of 34% compared to the same period last year.

Although the number of valuations for first-time buyers was 35% higher in the first three months of the year compared to Q1 2011, the end of the Stamp Duty holiday towards the end of March began to take its toll on mortgage demand for this group in the final month of the quarter.

Indeed, first-time buyers showed the smallest annual growth in March, 15%, when compared to other homebuyers and represented just 29% of all valuations completed in the month, down from 35% in February.

Valuation activity from owner-occupiers moving home in Q1 2012 increased by 25% compared to Q1 2011, with activity in March up 26% compared to a year ago.

John Bagshaw, corporate services director of Connells Survey and Valuation, says: “The rush to complete before the end of the Stamp Duty holiday provided a leg up to the valuations market in the first quarter of the year, but first-timers were by no means the only group to benefit. The increasing number of first-timers freed up property chains, allowing existing homemovers to move up the ladder.

“We’ve also seen a strong demand from buyers looking to move early, ahead of the disruption of the Olympics and the Jubilee in the summer, which has supported activity in March.

“However, there are financial clouds on the horizon, with the increased wholesale funding costs for lenders likely to affect the recently improving credit conditions.”

While the remortgage market grew strongly year on year, with 37% more remortgage valuations in Q1 2012 than in the same period of 2011, the increase slowed on a quarterly basis, with an increase of just 5% in the last three months, compared to Q4 2011.

The buy-to-let market continued its rapid expansion in the first quarter of the year, as valuations activity for property investors increased by 11%. This represented an annual increase of 56% compared to the first quarter of 2011.