Mortgage lending in UK fell in April, but no surprise due to March buy let boost

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Gross mortgage lending in the UK reached £18.5 billion in April, some 29% lower than March’s lending total of £26.2 billion, but 16% higher than the £16 billion lent in April last year. CML economist Mohammad Jamei pointed out that a fall was expected due to a rush in buy to let lending in March as landlords rushed through sales to beat the new 3% surcharge on additional homes that was introduced on 01 April. ‘As we move past the stamp duty change that came into effect at the start of April, we expect to see a quieter second quarter, as some transactions that were due to take place were brought forward to the first quarter of this year,’ he explained. ‘This is likely to mean that over the next few months buy to let takes a back seat as lending is driven by first time buyers, movers and remortgage customers. The underlying picture still shows signs of growth, as the market remains underpinned by strong fundamentals such as increasing wages and rising employment,’ he pointed out. ‘But it is possible that the uncertainty around the upcoming European Union referendum in June will weigh on activity in the upcoming months,’ he added. According to David Brown, chief executive officer of Marsh & Parsons, April lending was never going to live up to the March boost which was characterised by massively increased borrowing to landlords and second home owners. ‘But while we’ve seen a bit of a monthly comedown since then, the annual fundamentals are indicative of strength in the mortgage market. Widely expected to be an underwhelming month, April has still set an impressive benchmark for this time of the year, with lending levels harking back to the pre-recession era,’ he said. ‘Buy to let investors are just one type of buyer after all, and borrowing isn’t going to ground to a halt while they have a breather. The stamp duty changes didn’t affect the plans and intentions of hordes of other first time buyers and home movers, and in these areas buyer demand is still bursting at the seams,’ he added. David Whittaker, managing director of Mortgages for Business, pointed out that underneath the month on month lending patterns, there is a strong and steady current of buy to let lending critical to meet growing public demand for private rented accommodation. ‘Underlying annual growth in April shows a more sustainable path aside from any short term fluctuations and the need for buy to let mortgages to support the role of landlords,’ he added. The extremes of March make it futile to try to extract any meaningful insight from April's numbers, according to John Eastgate, sales and marketing director of OneSavings Bank. More importantly, market feedback suggests that normality has returned at enquiry level, although it will be the third quarter before we see this in new lending,’ he said. ‘A strong undercurrent of demand and a growing UK population means… Taylor Scott International

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