The Council of Mortgage Lenders’ latest buy-to-let data shows new lending was down 5% in Q1 2012, with 32,300 loans completed worth £3.7bn compared to 34,300 loans worth £3.9bn in Q4 2011.
On the plus side this was up 32% on the 24,900 worth £2.8bn completed in Q1 2011.
And while buy-to-let lending for house purchase in Q1 fell by a greater amount (9%) than remortgaging (1%), both were around 30% higher than in the first quarter of 2011.
The buy-to-let sector continues to increase its share of the mortgage market, with buy-to-let mortgages representing an estimated 12.8% of the total value of outstanding mortgages at the end of Q1 2012, up from 12.6% at the end of 2011 and 12.2% at the end of the first quarter of 2011.
The total number of buy-to-let mortgages stands at just over 1.4 million, with a total value of 159.4bn.
The average maximum loan-to-value available from lenders on buy-to-let mortgages remained at 75% in the first quarter of the year, with the average minimum rental cover 125% – up from 123% in the previous quarter, but otherwise the same as for nearly three years.
Despite the relatively positive figures the CML does point out that buy-to-let lending is still only around a third of its 2007 levels.
But Matt Hutchinson, director, flat and house share website Spareroom.co.uk, says that with average LTVs on buy-to-let mortgages at 75% and average minimal rental cover at 125% it’s unlikely the buy-to-let market will ever return to 2007 levels.
He says: “25% deposits will prevent a large number of people, particular amateur landlords, from buying rental property. The buy-to-let market has become the domain of the experienced landlord, rather than the speculator.
“However, although buy-to-let lending is down in the first quarter compared to the previous quarter, the fact that levels in Q1 are up a third compared to Q1 2011, shows there is a growing appetite in the sector. And with first time buyers still struggling to make the step from renting to buying, the demand for rental property should remain strong.
In terms of loan performance, the number of buy-to-let mortgages in arrears fell a little in the first quarter of 2012, and the arrears rate on buy-to-let mortgages continues to be lower than in the owner-occupied sector.
At the end of Q1, around 1.7% of buy-to-let mortgages were in arrears of more than three months, including cases where a receiver of rent has been appointed, compared with around 2% of owner-occupier mortgages.
The repossession rate was 0.12% – virtually the same as for the last five quarters – compared with 0.08% in the owner-occupied sector.
In absolute terms, the number of buy-to-let repossessions remains only a small proportion of total repossessions.