Mortgage lending decreased in March year-on-year, but the figures may not be an accurate depiction of the health of the sector. The Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) claims that while gross mortgage lending stood at GBP 11.6 billion last month, down eight per cent from the GBP 12.6 billion recorded in March 2012, the end of stamp duty the year previous distorts any meaningful comparison.
Gross lending increased by nine per cent between February and March, taking Q1 lending to GBP 33.8 billion. This is a nine per cent fall from the last three months of 2012, but mirrors gross lending figures from the first quarter of 2012. While comparative analysis is precluded by last year's stamp duty deadline, figures suggest that 2013 has kicked off to a good start.
Bob Pannell, CML chief economist, commented: "Conditions in the housing and mortgage markets continue to show signs of improving. The improvement in funding markets over the past year, reinforced by the incremental benefits of the Funding for Lending Scheme, has been the key catalyst behind stronger housing activity. The Help to Buy mortgage guarantee scheme – while still embryonic as yet – holds significant firepower, and has the potential to increase activity from 2014."
These statements follow the release of further data from CML, showing lending to first-time buyers is increasing. In February, the number of people getting their foot on the property ladder rose by three per cent. Combined with January's figures, the start of the year saw the largest number of first-time buyers for the first two months of the year since 2008. Year-on-year, lending to those looking to buy their first property increased 17 per cent.
This is the equivalent of 16,400 loans, a rise of 600 since January when 15,900 were recorded. In value, lending to first-time buyers totalled GBP 2 billion. This is the same as in January, but equates to a 18 per cent rise year-on-year.