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Last Updated: Friday, 23 November 2007, 11:42 GMT
Slump in bank mortgage lending
For Sale signs
The market may be heading for a sudden drop in sales
There has been a slump in the number of mortgages being approved for home buyers by UK banks.

The British Bankers Association (BBA) said that in October its members lent 44,105 mortgages for house purchase.

That was 19% fewer than in September, and 37% down on October 2006 when more than 70,000 mortgages were lent.

The figures suggest that the housing market is about to go through a significant slowdown due to high prices and higher borrowing costs.

"October's data provide evidence of a rapidly slowing mortgage market and of consumers limiting their personal borrowing," the BBA's director of statistics, David Dooks, said.

"Pressure on household finances, the cumulative impact of interest rate rises over the last year, the expanded application of home information packs and the consequential impact of the credit crunch may well all have a part to play in suppressing current demand and supply," he added.

Dramatic fall

Last month also saw a big fall in approvals for remortgaging - where people sit still but change their mortgage deals - and for equity withdrawal, where homeowners borrow more against the increased value of their homes.

I would urge against reading too much into one month's figures
Bernard Clarke, Council of Mortgage Lenders

The BBA's members account for roughly two-thirds of all mortgage lending in the UK and may reflect factors specific to them, such as the Northern Rock's enforced decision to rein in its own lending.

Also, there have been occasions when the trend in the lending of BBA members has been at odds with the whole market, where activity is measured by separate figures from the Bank of England.

Even so, the BBA figures are the lowest for any month since they started being publishing in their present form in September 1997.

"Heightened affordability pressures are making it increasingly difficult both for first-time buyers to get into the housing market and for existing house owners to trade up," said Howard Archer, chief economist at Global Insight.

"Meanwhile, rising concerns about the overall state of the economy may well make people more unwilling to risk stretching themselves to buy a house.

"Furthermore, growing speculation that the housing market could see a sharp correction over the coming months may also increasingly deter potential house buyers," he added.

Gathering downturn?

The BBA figures add to a growing picture of a housing market that may soon see a big fall in sales.

House prices, as measured by almost all surveys, are slowing down.

According to Bank of England figures, mortgages being approved by all lenders have been falling steadily since the start of the year, and took a big dip in September.

Meanwhile, surveyors say that enquiries from new buyers are continuing to fall, while mortgage lenders have calculated that first-time buyers have been stretching themselves to record levels to take on a mortgage.

"The figures are not inconsistent with our own data," said Bernard Clarke, from the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML).

"I would urge against reading too much into one month's figures, although we do expect a slowdown in lending and transactions during 2008," he said.

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