House purchase mortgage approvals up 17%
New figures from the Bank of England show the number of mortgages approved for house purchases rising in March, to 48,901, after falls in the previous three months.
The total was up 17% on a year earlier, but somewhat short of the previous six-month average of 54,201.
Remortgaging activity also increased, with March’s 27,880 approvals sporting an 8% rise on the previous six-month average of 25,853.
The trend probably reflects borrowers finally beginning to move out of apathy when coming to the end of fixed-rate deals, and choosing better options than their existing lenders’ standard variable rates.
In discussion with the Bank, most lenders reported that the severe winter weather and the removal of the stamp duty relief at the year end did not affect approvals or lending during March.
Looking forward, the UK’s banks and building societies said they expect the impact of the new stamp duty land tax relief, announced in this year’s Budget, to have some positive impact on mortgage activity from first-time buyers.
The tax was dropped on properties worth up to £250,000 in March, but strictly for first-time buyers.
However, some lenders were convinced that for those keen to get a foot on the property ladder, obtaining the deposit for a house purchase was a bigger problem than the cost of stamp duty.