Page last updated at 10:11 GMT, Wednesday, 29 July 2009 11:11 UK

Mortgage approvals 'on the rise'

For Sale signs
Recent surveys have suggested a slight upturn in the housing market

Signs of a further pick-up in the housing market during the summer have been revealed in the latest figures from the Bank of England.

The number of mortgages approved for house purchases in June rose to 47,584 - up from 44,169 the previous month and the highest number since April 2008.

It was the fifth month in a row that approvals have risen.

Another survey suggests a spillover onto the rental market, with the number of "reluctant landlords" falling.

The supply of rental properties more than doubled in the year to May, as people who could not - or chose not to - sell looked for tenants instead.

But now a squeeze on the number of properties on offer, and the traditional summer increase in tenant demand, has meant that typical rents have risen by £6 a month since May, according to website Findaproperty.com.

'Gradual' improvement

The Bank of England's mortgage approval figures are still well down on levels seen in the housing boom and indicate that demand is still subdued.

"Demand is flat because potential buyers believe that the bottom of the market has not been reached yet," said Chris Skinner, banking analyst at Balatro.

He said house-buying chains were being broken as a result, but that banks were starting to make mortgages more accessible to customers.

The Bank's figures show that net lending for house buying in June, by all lenders, grew by £343m - only very slightly higher than the rise in May which was the smallest monthly increase on record.

There is evidence households are looking to take advantage of the low interest rates to pay off debt rather than save
Brian Morris, BSA

The number of mortgages approved for remortgaging grew to 35,011 in June, although this was below the average of the last six months.

The number of other loans secured on people's homes also increased in June compared with May.

"I think the mortgage approvals data suggests that the market is improving gradually, and in our view it will continue to improve over the next coming months, said Amit Kara, UK economist at UBS.

"This in part because there is resilient demand, but also because Northern Rock and some of the other banks are being encouraged to lend."

'Challenging' times

The value of mortgages approved by building societies was at the highest level of the year in June, according to the Building Societies Association (BSA).

However, while this offered signs of stabilisation, the value was still more than 30% down on the same month a year earlier.

In the savings market in June, building societies saw customers withdraw £2.2bn more than they put in in June, compared with depositing £419m more than they took out last June.

"The withdrawal experienced by the building society sector is not unexpected given the very challenging economic backdrop," said the BSA's head of savings Brian Morris.

"With rising unemployment, subdued income growth and the official Bank rate at an historic low, it is very difficult to attract retail savings.

"There is evidence households are looking to take advantage of the low interest rates to pay off debt rather than save. These conditions are expected to persist into 2010."

The Bank of England figures also showed that the increase in the amount that consumers had borrowed in June was in line with the average of the past six months.

Net consumer credit increased by an estimated £71m in June, led primarily by net credit card lending which rose by an estimated £167m. The net figure on other types of loans and advances fell by £96m.

This was still well down on a year ago. In June 2008, before the height of the credit crunch, there was an increase in net consumer credit of £716m.



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