Positive start to the year for home lending but buy to let mortgage numbers fall again

The latest industry mortgage trend figures for the UK confirm that the property market has had a perhaps unexpectedly positive start to the year.

There were 25,100 new first time buyer mortgages completed in January 2019, up 4.6% compared with the same month in 2018, according to the data from UK Finance.

There were also 25,300 home mover mortgages completed in the month, up 2.8% year on year and the trends update report says that this suggests that the mortgage market has had a strong start to the year, despite ongoing economic uncertainty.

The data also shows that there were 5,500 new buy to let home purchase mortgages completed in January 2019, down 1.8% year on year, signalling that there is still some contraction in the buy to let sector.

The report suggests that this is due in part to tax and regulatory changes, but the rate of decline is less than in January 2018, when there was a 5.1% year on year fall in the number of buy to let home purchases.

There were 47,400 new home owner remortgages completed in January 2019, down 2.7% compared with the same month in 2018.

Remortgaging in the buy to let sector saw a similar drop-off in activity, with 15,800 new remortgages, a 4.2% drop from the year before. While this amounted to a year on year fall, the report says that it is worth noting that January 2018 was a particularly strong month, with the highest number of residential remortgages in nine years and the highest number of buy to let remortgages on record.

‘Overall, we expect the remortgaging sector to see continued strength in 2019, as more tranches of fixed rate deals come to an end,’ the report concludes.

Simon Heawood, chief executive officer of Bricklane.com, said that it cannot be denied that the extra tax burden on landlords is having an impact. ‘It’s not the case that people have fallen out of love with the property market though as 49% still think it’s the best way to save for retirement,’ he said.

‘However for increasing numbers of buy to let landlords, going at it alone doesn’t make financial sense anymore. We expect to see more and more investors looking for alternative tax-efficient routes into the property market, which allow them to access bricks and mortar returns, without the drawbacks of being a buy to let landlord,’ he added.

Increased competition in terms of products available in the mortgage market is helping many buyers, according to Kevin Roberts, director of the Legal & General Mortgage Club.

‘With mortgage rates having halved in the last decade, and a growing number of lenders offering 95% LTVs, first time buyers stand in a particularly strong position,’ he said.