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The residential mortgage market has had a strong start to the year, as the number of first-time buyers entering the market increased by 4.6 per cent.

The latest data from UK Finance, published today (March 14), said 25,100 new first-time buyers completed in January 2019, an increase of almost 5 per cent when compared with the same month in 2018.

The number of homeowner mortgages completed in the month rose to 25,300, a 2.3 per cent year-on-year increase.

Gareth Lewis, commercial director at specialist lender MT Finance, said: “There was always a worry that the lending market would be depressed at the beginning of the year as we edged ever close to the March deadline for Brexit, with this preventing people from buying and selling.

“But these figures are actually very positive and show that people have come out and continued to
buy, so sentiment is pretty good.

“First-time buyer numbers remain strong and encouragingly, loan-to-values have been consistent so it is not as if they are over-stretching themselves.

“With the average LTV around 85 per cent, sensible lending is being done rather than chasing volume.”

New homeowner remortgages, however, fell by 2.7 per cent when compared with January 2018, with 47,400 completed during the first month of this year.

Remortgaging in the buy-to-let sector also fell by 4.2 per cent when compared with the year before.

Kevin Roberts, director at Legal & General Mortgage Club, said: “While the current political landscape is forcing some homeowners to ‘improve, not move’, increased competition within the mortgage market continues to help thousands of buyers with their property plans and ambitions.

“With mortgage rates having halved in the last decade, and a growing number of lenders offering 95 per cent LTVs, first-time buyers stand in a particularly strong position.

“For any would-be borrowers, looking to make the most of the competitive rates and flexibility the mortgage market has to offer, speaking to a mortgage adviser is a wise first move.

“Not only can these professionals provide access to thousands of mortgage products, but their extensive knowledge of the market means they know which lenders will best cater to a borrower’s unique circumstances.”

Meanwhile, new buy-to-let home purchase mortgages completed in January were 1.8 per cent down on the same month a year earlier.

According to UK Finance, the rate of decline this year is less than experienced in January 2018, when buy-to-let home purchases plummeted 5.1 per cent year-on-year.

Matt Andrews, managing director of mortgages at Masthaven, said: “More could still be done for the buy-to-let market to encourage greater purchase activity.

“The slight softening in remortgaging figures for this sector suggests landlords remain committed to the market, greater product innovations, alongside a range of housing tenure that meets consumer needs, would certainly be welcomed so the sector can reach its full potential.”

Jenny Turton is a freelance journalist

Source: FT Adviser

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