Further evidence that schemes to boost the housing market are taking effect was shown today as mortgage lending for homebuyers reached a two-year high.
Some 55,300 loans were advanced for house purchase in August worth £8.4 billion, representing an 11 per cent increase on a year ago and the largest number of loans seen since July 2010, the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) said.
Lending to first-time buyers is up by a fifth on a year ago with £2.8 billion worth of loans advanced, only just below the levels seen in March when the ending of a stamp duty concession for this sector prompted a rush of people looking to complete deals.
The typical first-time buyer deposit has stood at 19 per cent since July, the lowest average deposit for this sector in more than three years, the CML said.
But the lending body cautioned that it was too early to say whether the boost is the start of an ongoing trend or if it is down to the market re-adjusting after summer distractions such as the Olympics. Mortgage availability has been increasing since an £80 billion funding for lending scheme was launched at the start of August, although much of this has so far been concentrated around people with larger deposits of at least 20 per cent.
Jonathan Harris, director of mortgage broker Anderson Harris, said the figures showed "welcome indications" that funding for lending is starting to kick in, with several lenders slashing their rates recently. The Government also launched a NewBuy scheme in the spring, which has been helping first-time buyers and home movers buy a new-build home with a deposit of just five per cent.
But Mr Harris said: "With first-time buyers still needing to put down nearly 20 per cent of the purchase price as a deposit, we need funding for lending to result in more options and better rates at higher LTVs (loans-to-value) if it is to make a real difference for the market."
Meanwhile, remortgage lending has continued on a downward spiral, and is down by more than a third year-on-year.
Some 21,700 remortgage loans worth £2.9 billion were advanced in August, a massive 37 per cent drop compared with a year ago. Lenders have toughened their borrowing criteria in recent months, raising concerns that many home owners on a standard variable rate (SVR) mortgage who have recently seen their payments go up will find it harder to switch deals. A string of lenders have increased their SVRs since the spring, affecting more than a million home owners.
Santander's hike to its SVR last week meant a few hundred thousand of its customers saw an average increase of £26 a month for a £100,000 mortgage.
Mr Harris, said he found it surprising that remortgaging levels were so weak when lenders have been raising their SVR rates.
He suggested that some people could be finding themselves trapped in their current deal because their financial circumstances have changed or the value of their home has fallen, meaning they are struggling to meet lenders' requirements.
The CML said it was too early to draw any firm conclusions about longer-term trends from its latest figures.
CML director general Paul Smee said: "House purchase lending showed an encouraging rise in August but it's unclear whether this reflects just the unravelling of previous factors such as the Jubilee and the Olympic Games, or a shift in the underlying picture.
"We will wait and see whether schemes such as Funding for Lending and NewBuy provide a further boost to the market in coming months."