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UK mortgage approvals beat expectations as housing market reopens

UK mortgage approvals beat expectations and rocketed in June as the housing market reopened from the coronavirus lockdown, the latest figures have shown.

The number of mortgages approved by UK banks rose to 40,000 in June after May’s record crash to just 9,300, the Bank of England said today. Analysts had predicted a rise to 34,000.

However, approvals were still 46 per cent below the February level of 73,700.

“The mortgage market showed some signs of recovery in June, but remained relatively weak in comparison to pre-Covid,” the Bank of England said.

An increase in house purchases helped consumer borrowing trends take a step closer to normality in June.

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UK households pay down debts as mortgage approvals rise

Households repaid £86m of debt last month. But that was lower than the repayments totalling £15.6bn over the March to May period.

People have been paying down their debts and saving money as there has been little to spend on during lockdown. The net repayments of the last four months contrast with an average of £1.1bn of borrowing per month in the year and a half to February.

The UK government has gradually loosened the country’s coronavirus restrictions over the last two months. In May it allowed the housing market to reopen, leading to June’s uptick in mortgage approvals.

In June the government allowed “non-essential” shops to reopen. And earlier this month pubs, cafes and restaurants were allowed to serve customers again.

The Treasury has unveiled a number of policies to encourage people to part with their lockdown savings. It hopes a VAT cut for the hospitality and tourism sectors and “eat out to help out” vouchers will boost the economy.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s stamp duty holiday has already helped the London housing market after just two weeks, data showed yesterday. London house sales rocketed 27 per cent after the property tax was slashed, housing website Zoopla said yesterday.

By Harry Robertson

Source: City AM

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Nationwide enhances lending options for first-time buyers

Nationwide Building Society has increased the lending limit for first-time buyers following the government’s temporary changes to stamp duty regulations, to provide further support to them and the housing market.

The lender will offer 90% loan-to-value (LTV) mortgages for first-time buyers from Monday 20 July, with no set limit on the number of home loans available.

These will be available direct from Nationwide or via a broker; enhanced criteria will apply.

Existing mortgage members moving home will be able to continue borrowing up to 95% LTV, while for further advances, the maximum has increased to 90% LTV.

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Henry Jordan, director of mortgages at Nationwide Building Society, said: “First-time buyers are vital to breathing life into the housing market and economy.

“We understand one of the biggest barriers to homeownership is raising a deposit.

“As a building society, owned by our members, we are extremely well placed to look at ways of helping people into a home of their own.

“While we will continue to monitor the market carefully, we feel it is the right time to enhance our lending, initially to those looking for their first home.

“We welcome the government’s announcement on stamp duty and hope our combined changes create a positive impact on a market that, despite being in relatively good health, is still recovering.”

Miles Shipside, commercial director and housing market analyst at Rightmove, added: “The ability for lenders to offer lower deposit mortgages to first-time buyers is critical to helping the market recover more quickly.

“The stamp duty holiday is of limited benefit to those first-time buyers who are already exempt from it in many parts of the country, and so Nationwide’s return to 90% loan-to-value is likely to help significantly more for those trying to get their first step on the ladder.

“There’s been record demand for property on Rightmove since the market reopened which has been boosted even further by the stamp duty announcement, all of which should help activity levels over the coming months.”

By Jessica Bird

Source: Mortgage Introducer

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Borrowing is on the way to returning to healthy levels

Despite Bank of England figures that showed mortgage approvals hit a record low of 9,300 in May, there are signs that borrowing is returning to normal levels, according to Hometrack.

The Bank of England’s Money and Credit Report showed that households repaid more loans than they took out in May, but that there was still a small increase in mortgage borrowing.

On net, households borrowed an additional £1.2bn secured on their homes, higher than £0.0bn in April, but weak compared to an average of £4.1bn in the six months to February 2020.

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David Ross, managing director of Hometrack, said: “The data released by the Bank of England is encouraging and shows that borrowing, while not at pre-COVID levels, is certainly returning.

“On a more positive note our data for June shows continued growth and is up on the same period in 2019.”

For the market to return to normal, Ross added, providers must continue to innovate and focus on the customer.

He said: “Continued stimulus is key to maintaining this growth.

“We urge mortgage providers to focus on delivering the very best customer experience, removing complexity through digitisation and ensuring fewer barriers to borrowing.

“This in turn will help grow new lending, helping the economy get back on its feet after the shock of COVID.”

By Jessica Bird

Source: Mortgage Introducer

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BoE: New mortgage commitments up 6.1% in Q1

The first quarter of 2020 saw a 6.1% year-on-year increase in the value of new mortgage commitments (lending agreed to be advanced in the coming months) to £67.6bn, according to the latest figures from the Bank of England.

The BoE’s data also revealed that the outstanding value of all residential mortgages loans was £1,509bn at the end of 2020 Q1, 3.9% higher than a year earlier.

Overall the value of gross mortgage advances in 2020 Q1 was £65.8bn, 3.8% higher than in 2019 Q1.

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Tomer Aboody, director of property lender MT Finance, said: “Overall, and as expected, the lending market enjoyed a great first quarter with plenty of confidence, more lending done and higher loan-to-values offered by the banks, along with cheaper mortgage rates compared with the same period a year ago.

“This was set to be the trend for the year ahead after years of uncertainty created by Brexit.

“Then the pandemic hit and the picture in the second quarter will be very different. But what it ultimately shows is that the fundamentals are there.

“Lenders are keen to lend and now, as we wait for lockdown to end, we need some stimulus from the government to give the housing market the boost it needs.”

By Ryan Fowler

Source: Mortgage Introducer

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London and the south buck the trend as mortgage market flattened in Q1

The coronavirus pandemic may have flattened mortgage approvals across the UK but there are still hotspots of activity, UK Finance data has revealed.

A household finance review for the first quarter of 2020 by banking trade body UK Finance shows mortgage approvals slumped on average across the country but still increased in some parts for first-time buyers and home movers.

This suggests there could still be demand for estate agents to tap into now the market has reopened.

The figures show that mortgage approvals for first-time buyers fell across the UK but were up in the south east of England and London by 3% and 5% respectively during March when the market was on lockdown.

There were large drops elsewhere though, with approvals in Yorkshire down 16% and the north of England registering 20% drop.

The data also shows that while approvals for home mover mortgages were down overall, they rose in each month of the first quarter of 2020 in London, the south east of England and Northern Ireland.

Home mover approvals were also up annually in Wales, the south west of England and East Anglia during March but fell by more than 10% in the north of England and in Scotland.

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There was some good news for the lettings sector as buy-to-let approvals rose 7% over the quarter.

UK Finance also warned of a modest pick-up in arrears towards the end of the quarter as the Covid-19 pandemic began to impact home owners, but said the level is still lower than a year ago.

The trade body said:

“It is likely that the significant disruption to activity over the quarter is creating some noise in the data and a clear picture of how trends have evolved in different parts of the country should become more apparent in the coming quarters.

“While regional house purchase year-on-year growth shows variances, the picture for the whole of the UK was fairly flat.”

By MARC SHOFFMAN

Source: Property Industry Eye

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Broker confidence holding up

Broker confidence holding up. Some 71% of brokers are confident in the mortgage market’s prospects in the next 12 months, despite the difficult few months they have encountered.

The research, from Masthaven, found that only 3% of intermediaries are not confident.

Rob Barnard, director of intermediaries at Masthaven Bank, said: “Broker confidence is holding up well and that’s such an important part of the market, as it directly feeds through into the conversations intermediaries are having with customers.

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“Now that the housing market has reopened and with the news that mortgage payment relief may be extended to help those customers in need, it’s good to see positive sentiment for the next twelve months from the intermediary community.”

More than half (51%) of specialist lending intermediaries are using video calls to liaise with their customers, while 42% are sending regular email updates.

Nearly a third (32%) of specialist lending intermediaries said that they are recommending lenders based on their access to reliable funding.

BY RYAN BEMBRIDGE

Source: Property Wire

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Lenders pledge ongoing support for those affected by Covid

Mortgage lenders are committed to supporting borrowers who are reaching the end of a three-month payment holiday to choose the next steps that best suit their needs, according to UK Finance.

This comes after HM Treasury confirmed last week (May 22) that mortgage customers, who were struggling to pay due to the coronavirus, can extend their payment holiday for an additional three months or begin to make reduced payments.

Figures from UK Finance showed that an equivalent of one in six mortgages are currently covered by a payment holiday, with more than 1.82m payment holidays having been issued as of May 20.

The industry body said it was “important that customers receive the support that is right for them” and for those who had already taken a payment holiday, an extension “may be appropriate in some circumstances”.

It encouraged borrowers who are concerned about their ability to pay to contact their lender and consider the “full set of options available to them”.

These include reduced payments, a move to interest-only payments for a period, extending the term of the mortgage to reduce payments, taking a payment holiday if the customer has not already done so or a further extension of the payment holiday.

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Stephen Jones, UK Finance CEO, said: “Mortgage lenders are committed to providing those borrowers nearing the end of their three-month payment holiday with help and flexibility in choosing the next steps which best suit their needs.

“The industry looks forward to regulatory guidance being finalised swiftly to ensure both borrowers and lenders can plan over the coming weeks.

“Meanwhile those borrowers who have already taken a mortgage payment holiday and can afford to make payments are encouraged to do so, as this will reduce the level of their repayments in the long run.”

In response, Vim Maru, retail director at Lloyds Banking Group, said: “We are already proactively contacting our customers who will be reaching the end of their repayment holidays to support them in restarting their payments.

“For those who may continue to be financially impacted, we will offer a range of support based on their current financial circumstances.”

But Dominik Lipnicki, director at Your Mortgage Decisions, said he would welcome a “more uniformed approach from lenders when it comes to the ease of application [of a payment holiday] and how these borrowers are looked at in the future when remortgaging or buying a new home”.

Research from YouGov for Nationwide found that 21 per cent of homeowners in April were worried about not being able to keep up with mortgage payments, and 14 per cent feared losing their home.

Lenders have also committed to continue suspending involuntary repossessions for residential and buy-to-let customers until October 31, as set out in the Financial Conduct Authority’s draft guidance for lenders published last week (May 22).

On the day the FCA published its draft guidance, Nationwide pledged that none of its mortgage customers, who fell into arrears as a result of Covid-19, would see their home repossessed until the end of May 2021, if they worked with the provider to “get their finances back on track”.

Joe Garner, chief executive at Nationwide, said: “As a mutual, founded to help people into a home of their own, this is what building societies have always been about. We hope this additional support will provide extra flexibility to those who most need it, to help get them back on track.”

Mr Lipnicki added: “The fact that repossessions are on hold is a very welcome relief for affected borrowers and I am sure that more flexibility will need to be applied even after October 31”.

By Chloe Cheung

Source: FT Adviser

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Masthaven: Three quarters of brokers confident of mortgage market prospects

Almost three quarters (71%) of intermediaries remain confident in the mortgage market’s prospects for the next 12 months, despite the ongoing coronavirus crisis, research from Masthaven Bank has found.

In a survey of more than 200 intermediaries conducted in May some 65% said they were confident whilst 6% said they were very confident – a quarter said they were unsure.

Only 3% of intermediaries surveyed said they were not confident in the market’s prospects for the coming year.

Rob Barnard, director of intermediaries at Masthaven Bank, said: “Broker confidence is holding up well and that’s such an important part of the market, as it directly feeds through into the conversations intermediaries are having with customers.

“Now that the housing market has reopened and with the news that mortgage payment relief may be extended to help those customers in need, it’s good to see positive sentiment for the next twelve months from the intermediary community.”

The survey also found that more than half (51%) of specialist lending intermediaries are now using video calls to liaise with their customers, while 42% are sending regular email updates.

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A small proportion of brokers have introduced live chat platforms on their websites (4%) or extended their opening hours (2%) since the start of the pandemic.

Nearly a third (32%) of specialist lending intermediaries said that they are recommending lenders based on their access to reliable funding.

Jon Hall, chief commercial officer and deputy CEO at Masthaven Bank, said: “Masthaven has remained open for business throughout the crisis.

“We have continued to work with intermediary partners to ensure they have access to a good range of competitive products.

“We have adapted our service offerings, launching a fee-free remortgage range in response to broker demand and increased our use of AVMs where physical valuations have not been possible. Our offices may be closed but we remain open for business.”

By Ryan Fowler

Source: Mortgage Introducer

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New Covid-19 support package from Nationwide

Nationwide has guaranteed that none of the society’s mortgage-holders will lose their home due to coronavirus.

Nationwide has launched a Home Support Package to help customers struggling financially due to Covid-19.

The society is offering extended support for people financially impacted by the outbreak and has put in place a range of options for both homeowners and tenants.

The move comes after the FCA announced that mortgage borrowers will be able to ask lenders for a second three-month mortgage payment holiday.

In addition to three-month payment breaks for both residential and buy-to-let mortgages, the society is also enabling partial payments such as temporary interest-only arrangements.

The five points of the Home Support Package are:

Commitment not to repossess any homes over the next 12 months

No mortgage member will lose the property in which they live if they are in arrears as a result of Covid-19 and work with the society to get their finances back on track. Nationwide says it will protect homes in this way until the end of May 2021.

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Option to change the way people pay their mortgages

Nationwide is offering flexibility for members in meeting their mortgage payments where they can. Assessments will ensure the best outcome, and timeframe, for people’s circumstances. This could include temporarily moving to interest-only payments to minimise the long-term impact on their finances.

New three-month mortgage payment breaks for those still in financial difficulty due to Covid-19

This would mean a total of up to six months’ support to those most needing it, following an assessment to ensure the hardest-hit customers receive additional support. There will be cases where a payment break is not in the best interests of someone’s circumstances. In these cases, Nationwide will suggest alternatives.

Encouraging landlords to pass on payment breaks to tenants

Nationwide is contacting all its buy-to-let landlord customers to let them know that if their tenants require a rent payment break due to the impact of Covid-19, they can have a mortgage payment break on the property.

Greater focus on housing advice and support

Through Nationwide’s longstanding partnership with Shelter, the society will fund more advisers for the charity’s helpline services which provide specialist advice to those with housing, debt and welfare issues.

Nationwide will also support the introduction of new Shelter community engagement officers, who will provide community outreach for those people that struggle to access support.

Coronavirus support page

New payment breaks – partial or full – will be available via the society’s online coronavirus support page from mid-June.

Members already receiving payment support will be contacted prior to it ending and directed online should they require further support due to ongoing financial difficulties as a result of Covid-19. All payment breaks will continue to accrue interest.

Joe Garner, Nationwide’s chief executive, says: “There is a real need to reassure people, particularly those on mortgage payment breaks who are worried what will happen next. At a time when people are concerned about their jobs, bills and health, we want to do everything possible to ensure they don’t worry about having a roof over their heads. As a mutual, founded to help people into a home of their own, this is what building societies have always been about. We hope this additional support will provide extra flexibility to those who most need it, to help get them back on track.”

Nationwide is also asking the government to consider changes to the way housing support is provided, asking that Local Housing Allowance covers the 50th percentile of rents in any given area rather than the current 30th percentile.

This is something Shelter and the Money Advice Trust have also called for, while also working with Government and other organisations to establish a more consistent and customer-focussed approach to debt collection and recoveries.

Written by: Emma Lunn

Source: Your Money

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Homeowners set to be able to extend mortgage payment holidays

Those struggling to pay their mortgage due to coronavirus are set to be able to extend their payment holidays for three more months, or start making reduced payments, in proposals published today.

On 17 March, banks agreed with the Chancellor that they would offer ‘forbearance’ (tolerance and help) on mortgages, meaning they all should offer those struggling a three-month ‘holiday’, allowing customers a temporary break from having to make mortgage payments during this time.

Over 1.8 million mortgage payment holidays were taken up, and the first of these will be ending in June. But an extension of another three months will now likely be available.

The Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA’s) new draft guidance also includes an extension of the application period for an initial mortgage holiday until 31 October 2020, so that customers who haven’t had a payment holiday and are experiencing financial difficulty will be able to ask for one.

The current ban on repossessions of homes will be continued until 31 October as well.

Full info on what the FCA expects mortgage lenders to do?

At the moment, these proposals aren’t confirmed. The FCA says it welcomes comments on them until 5pm on Tuesday 26 May, and then expects to confirm them shortly afterwards. Here’s what it’s proposing:

  • If you’ve not had a mortgage payment holiday, you’ll have until 31 October 2020 to apply. Customers who are making repayments now but get into financial difficulty later will be able to request a payment holiday until 31 October.
  • If your payment holiday’s ending, you can ask for another three months if you’re still struggling. Lenders should continue to support customers who have already had a payment holiday where they need further help, unless granting a further mortgage holiday would create its own financial difficulties.
  • Firms are expected to contact customers on mortgage payment holidays and find out what they can repay and, for those who remain in temporary financial difficulty, offer further support. As part of this, firms should consider a further three-month payment holiday.
  • If you can make full or partial payments, you should do so. At the end of a payment holiday, firms should find out if customers can resume payments, or part payments. If so, your lender should contact you to agree a plan on how the missed payments will be repaid, which could include spreading the cost of payments over the remaining mortgage term, or extending the mortgage term.
  • The current ban on repossessions of homes will be continued until 31 October 2020.
  • Payment holidays and partial payment holidays won’t go down as a missed payment on your credit file. However, the FCA says that consumers should remember that credit files aren’t the only source of information that lenders can use to assess how creditworthy someone is.

The FCA adds that these recommendations are minimum standards and that they don’t stop firms from going above and beyond, for example, by offering reduced interest.

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Buy-to-let mortgages aren’t technically covered by today’s announcement as they’re not regulated by the FCA. Yet if a lender is regulated for its residential mortgage business, the FCA says it also looks carefully at how these firms carry out their unregulated buy-to-let business, so it’s hoped that some mortgage lenders will offer the extensions to their landlord customers too.

What impact could a mortgage holiday have on my credit score?

As Martin and the FCA have pointed out, while mortgage payment holidays won’t be marked as missed payments on your credit report, they could still have an impact on your wider creditworthiness, as lenders can find out about them through bank statements or ‘Open Banking’ data, and can factor them in. As Martin says…

‘We wait to see how substantial the impact will be – but those who need a mortgage holiday should still do it’

The FCA has confirmed, sadly, that while credit files shouldn’t be impacted by mortgage or other payment holidays, lenders are still allowed to take them into account when making their acceptance decisions.

It’s impossible to say yet how widespread this will be or how substantial the impact will be – we’ll start to learn that over the next year. Each lender’s assessment process is different; it’s a dark art that’s hidden from the public and never published, so this is likely to be yet another factor applicants will need to navigate.

Certainly many new challenger financial firms talk about their new, more sophisticated customer assessment models, that they believe are better than just relying on credit files. It’s that very fact that sparked me to look at this in the first place. And as they will be able to see that someone has temporarily not paid their mortgage, they can spot payment holidays.

My hope is that as these holidays are specifically for the short-term financial hit of coronavirus – and as the practice is so widespread – it won’t be used by many firms, and where it is it won’t tarnish individuals’ credit reputation for too long. But there’s no real way to know.

Most importantly, I don’t believe this should stop anyone who needs a mortgage holiday from getting one – if it’s crucial for cash flow, just do it. Yet for those on the border, who may find it temporarily useful but can cope without it, add this to the fact that interest racks up during the payment holiday and I’d err on the side of caution.

What does the FCA say?

Christopher Woolard, FCA interim chief executive, said: “Our expectations are clear – anyone who continues to need help should get help from their lender. We expect firms to work with customers on the best options available for them, paying particular attention to the needs of their vulnerable customers, and to provide information on where to access help and advice.

“Where consumers can afford to restart mortgage payments, it is in their best interests to do so. But where they can’t, a range of further support will be available. People who are struggling and have not had a mortgage payment holiday will also continue to be able to apply until 31 October.”

By Callum Mason

Source: Money Saving Expert