Mortgages paid off at record rate

Bank of England figures show homeowners paid off £7bn of mortgage debt in the last quarter of 2010

Homeowners paid off their mortgage debt at the fastest rate since records began in 1970, injecting £7bn of equity in the final quarter of 2010, according to the Bank of England.

This was well up on the net repayment of £6.6bn in the third quarter of 2010, as well as the £6.2bn seen in the first quarter, and represents the largest net injection of equity on record.

It also marks the eleventh successive quarterly net repayment of mortgage debt, meaning homeowners have been investing more in their homes than they have been taking out in loans – paying off a total of £57.4bn since the second quarter of 2008.

In contrast, there was persistent housing equity withdrawal between 1997 and the first quarter of 2008 – including a sizeable £13.8bn in the first quarter of 2007.

The trend for repaying mortgage debt is being fuelled by homeowners using extra money from lower mortgage interest payments to reduce the balance they owe on their houses, while extremely low savings rates make it far more attractive for people to use spare cash to reduce their mortgages.

Tight credit conditions have also made it more difficult for many people to withdraw housing equity.

Howard Archer, chief European and UK economist at IHS Global Insight, said: “The record figures highlight the strong desire and perceived need of many people to improve their personal balance sheets given high debt levels and serious concerns and uncertainties over the economic situation.

“The overall softening in house prices from their late-2007 peak has made housing equity withdrawal less attractive. And of course, house prices have fallen anew overall in recent months, which is likely to further encourage a net injection of housing equity in the near term at least.”

Housing equity withdrawal was used to support consumer spending during the boom years, but Archer said the ongoing net injection of housing equity is adding to the constraints on consumer spending, including high unemployment, negative wage growth and high debt levels.

Source: The Guardian

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Surprise fall in inflation cuts interest rate pressure

MORTGAGE payments could remain at rock bottom until the beginning of next year, experts have predicted, after a surprise drop in the rate of inflation in March reduced pressure on policymakers to raise interest rates.

New data showing a rise in inflation of just 4 per cent last month came as a shock to economists, who expected that the cost of living – measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) – would increase again, as it has done for nine months. The index stood at 4.4 per cent in February.

The falling cost of food and drink was the main driver of the lower CPI, the Office for National Statistics’ figures revealed.

The price paid for products including fruit, bread and cereals, slumped as supermarkets and grocery shops slashed costs amid falling consumer confidence in the wake of looming public sector job cuts and tax changes announced in the Budget.

Lower-than-expected inflation will weaken the prospect of an interest rate rise – which will come as welcome news for Scotland’s home-owners, but a disappointment for those with healthy balances in their savings accounts, who were hoping rates would begin an upturn.

Members of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) have recently come under increasing pressure to raise interest rates – which have remained at 0.5 per cent for 25 months in an effort to kick-start the country’s flagging economy.

Source: News.scotsman.com

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Local councils to offer first-time buyer mortgage support

Fifteen local authorities team up with Lloyds TSB in a scheme to top-up first-time buyers’ deposits

First-time buyers who are unable to call on the bank of mum and dad to boost their deposit may now be able to turn to their local council instead.

Fifteen local authorities, including East Lothian, Blackpool, Newcastle-under-Lyme and Warrington, have agreed to put money in a Lloyds TSB scheme to top up the deposits of first-time buyers trying to buy a home in their area. The scheme, called Local Lend a Hand, allows first-timers to buy a home with a deposit of as little as 5%.

Raising a deposit is one of the biggest hurdles for first-time buyers since the 2007 banking crisis, with many lenders refusing mortgages to those whose savings are less than 20% of the value of the property they want to buy, and offering the lowest rates to those with deposits of 25% or more. The requirement for a big deposit has relaxed recently with more lenders willing to provide mortgages worth 90% of a property’s value, but only two – Yorkshire Bank and Skipton building society, via its estate agency subsidiary Connells – will lend up to 95%.

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Economy needs housebuilding budget boost

Tackling housing crisis would create 200,000 jobs

HBF: Urgent measures to dramatically increase housing supply and address the growing housing crisis must be included in next week’s budget. Providing desperately needed homes would create 200,000 direct jobs over the next year and stimulate growth giving the country a massive economic boost.

A year into office the Government is facing a huge housing dilemma. House building is at an all time low; planning permissions are continuing to decline; the number of first time buyers has collapsed; millions of families are languishing on Local Authority waiting lists; and there is an ongoing hiatus being caused by the Coalition’s radically different planning system that is still being formulated, with Local Authorities struggling to get to grips with the new incentive based proposals.

Housing projectMeanwhile, economic growth is crucial to the wider economy over the next few years. According to Government figures, even in its current crisis state, housing supply accounts for around 3% of UK GDP and provides between 1 and 1.25 million jobs in the UK.

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House prices fall for the eighth consecutive month

Experts predict prices will continue to fall as fewer people are getting loans and many are falling behind repayments

The average price of a UK home fell by 1.4% in January to £208,552 according to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

The annual rate of house price inflation dipped to 0.5% in January, compared to 3.8% in December and a peak of 10.6% in May 2010, according to the DCLG house price index. It was the eighth consecutive month during which the annual rate of house price inflation has fallen.

Negative housing market data was also announced by the Financial Services Authority (FSA), which showed new loans to borrowers reached £37bn in the fourth quarter of 2010 – a drop of 10% compared to the previous quarter and an 11% fall compared to the final quarter of 2009.

The FSA said the number of new arrears cases increased in the final three months of last year to 38,800 – 6% higher than the previous quarter but still 5% below the 40,900 cases in the fourth quarter of 2009 . The total number of accounts in arrears at the end of 2010 was 343,400, unchanged from last quarter.

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