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Rob Clifford: Get set for a rollercoaster year

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The Mortgage Credit Directive rules, stamp duty hikes and new competition will make 2016 just as exciting as 2015

The UK mortgage market had its ups and downs last year but lending activity has grown throughout. Despite some obstacles to overcome in 2016, it seems this trajectory can be maintained.

That said, 2015 did not always provide smooth sailing for mortgage market practitioners, even in the intermediary sector, which appears to be in the distribution ascendency at present. I have no doubt this year will be the same.

Many even suggest the market could provide more of a rollercoaster ride. For a start, March will deliver plenty of change, with both the introduction of the Mortgage Credit Directive rules and the last date for buy-to-let and second home purchasers to complete in order to beat the planned hike in stamp duty.

The never-ending interest rate debate is also set to continue. Last year provided a lesson for Bank of England governor Mark Carney in how not to interject into the debate. I would be surprised to see a repeat of remarks suggesting a rate rise at a point in the future, only to find outside forces and economic data make such an increase unpalatable for the majority of Monetary Policy Committee members.

Lender activity and the addition of a number of new and existing players back to the fray was a hallmark of 2015. Again, this looks likely to continue. We hear already that New Street will launch in January and CHL Mortgages is planning to come back to the buy-to-let sector. There is also talk of up to half a dozen new specialist lenders poised to join the stage.

Greater competition is clearly a positive, especially if existing players have their lending activities dampened by requirements to hold greater levels of capital.

There has already been concern voiced about what impact this might have on lending levels and rates, with the anticipation being that pricing could be pushed upwards by the banks’ need to raise an extra 1 per cent of the value of their assets.

Rob Clifford is group commercial director at Shepherd Direct, which is a shareholder at both Stonebridge Group and Moneyquest

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