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The latest data and analysis from UK Finance has revealed that despite 'challenging' market conditions and the ongoing Brexit and political circus, first-time-buyer numbers reached a 12-year peak during last year.

According to the report from UK Finance, there were 370,000 new first-time buyer mortgages completed in 2018, a 1.9% rise when compared to 2017. This is the highest number of first-time buyer mortgages since 2006, when this figure stood at 402,800. The £62bn of new lending in the year was 4.9% more than in 2017.

During December, there were 30,900 new first-time buyer mortgages completed. This was a 1.6% rise against the same month a year earlier. The £5.2bn of new lending in the month was 4% more year-on-year. UK Finance revealed that there were 30,000 new homemover mortgages completed in December last year - a drop of 1.3% against the same month a year earlier.

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The report revealed that there were 12,400 new buy-to-let remortgages completed in December 2018. This figure is up by 25.3% when compared to the same month a year earlier. By value this was £2.0bn of lending in the month, 25% more year-on-year. In 2018, there were 169,100 new buy-to-let remortgages completed, some 11.2 per cent more than in 2017. The £27bn of new lending in the year was 11.6 per cent more than in 2017.

Jackie Bennett, Director of Mortgages at UK Finance said: "The mortgage industry helped 370,000 people buy their first home in 2018, the highest number in twelve years, as competitive deals and government schemes such as Help to Buy continue to boost the market.

Homeowner remortgaging also saw strong growth driven by customers locking into attractive rates, a trend we expect to continue in 2019 as more fixed-rate mortgages come to an end. Demand for new buy-to-let purchases continues to be dampened by recent tax and regulatory changes. However, the number of buy-to-let remortgages reached a record high of almost 170,000 last year, suggesting many landlords remain committed to the market.”

Remortgaging numbers continue to be strong as borrowers lock into fixed rates for some certainty during these tricky Brexit times. Lenders remain keen to lend and the competitive rates we have seen for a while now look unlikely to disappear anytime soon.

Experienced landlords remain committed to buy-to-let. There are fewer novice investors entering the sector but this is no surprise given the trickier tax and regulatory environment."

Jeremy Leaf, north London estate agent and a former RICS residential chairman, says: "In welcome news, first-time buyers are taking advantage of reduced competition for smaller properties from buy-to-let landlords still reeling from recent tax and regulatory changes. First-time buyers are the lifeblood for the market as they tend to move up the housing ladder, releasing chains, compared with landlords who usually buy at the lower levels and stay there.

Although affordability and activity has generally improved over the past month there will probably be more green shoots in the garden than the housing market until uncertainty over Brexit begins to clear."

Kevin Roberts, Director, Legal & General Mortgage Club, said: “The mortgage market continues to demonstrate its resilience with strong activity across most areas of the market. The number of mortgage products available are at some of the highest levels we’ve ever seen and combined with competitive rates, this is continuing to entice borrowers, particularly first-time buyers.

For any borrowers unsure of how the current climate will affect them or how they can take potentially take advantage of it, speaking to a mortgage adviser is a great place to start. Through their extensive knowledge and access to the whole of market, these experienced professionals will be able to match a borrower’s unique circumstances with the right mortgage product.”

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