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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 July, 2005, 10:51 GMT 11:51 UK
Equity release shows sharp fall
The amount of money Britons are unlocking from their property has fallen to its lowest level for nearly four years, official figures show.

During the first three months of 2005, Britons withdrew 6.42bn of equity from their homes, the Bank of England said.

This compares with 8.28bn for the final quarter of 2004 and 15.93bn for the same period last year.

The fall in withdrawals, also called equity release, adds to signs that mortgage borrowing is slowing.

Mortgage slowdown

Equity release allows homeowners to unlock capital from their home's value.

The money is commonly used to consolidate debts or borrow money to finance home improvements, or even to provide a retirement income.

During recent years, equity release has become increasingly attractive to homeowners who want to make the most of low interest rates and high house prices.

The sharp fall in equity release is part of a wider picture of a slowing housing market.

Last week, the Nationwide found that house prices had fallen 0.2% in June.

Other recent house price surveys have also indicated that the property market has slowed sharply in 2005.

On Wednesday, the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee meets to discuss the next move in UK interest rates.

Many analysts expect the Bank to trim the base rate from its current level of 4.75% over the coming months.

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