Page last updated at 10:19 GMT, Friday, 12 March 2010

Mortgage agreements 'halved in January'

The housing market was not too bright in early 2010, surveys say

The January downturn in the property market has been underlined by the latest figures from the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML).

Mortgages agreed with house buyers fell by 49% from December, after buyers rushed to beat the reintroduction of the old stamp duty thresholds.

There were just 32,000 loans approved for house buyers in January.

The number of loans for first-time buyers fell by 54% in January to 11,300.

CML director general Michael Coogan said it had been a quiet start to the year.

The start of 2010 was difficult for a number of reasons, and the question is whether this is a blip or the start of a new trend
Peter Williams, Acadametrics

"Lending volumes in January were low, but we had predicted this would happen due to the end of the stamp duty holiday distorting December's figures," he said.

"When December and January data are taken together, they show little change in underlying market conditions compared with recent months, with activity still slow but well up on the lows of a year earlier.

"We expect lending over the coming months to remain weak," he added.

The CML's figures confirm the picture portrayed by the latest figures on the property market.

In recent weeks:

• the CML said the gross value of all mortgage loans had fallen by 32% from December to January

• HM Revenue & Customs reported that the number of completed home sales in the UK had more than halved to 51,000 in January

• the Bank of England said that the number of home loans approved for house purchases in January, but not yet lent, had fallen by 17% to 48,198 - the lowest for eight months

• both the Halifax and the Nationwide mortgage lenders reported that prices had fallen in February, by 1.5% and 1% respectively.

Falling sales

Another survey, from Acadametrics, suggested that the effect of the slump in lending would last for longer than just one month.

The number of homes sold in England and Wales at the start of 2010 fell back to levels seen at the depths of the downturn it said.

Transaction levels fell to 36,000 in January, a drop of 52% compared with the previous month, and then only crept up to an estimated 40,000 in February.

However, it calculated that prices rose by 1.9% in February compared with January.

"The start of 2010 was difficult for a number of reasons, and the question is whether this is a blip or the start of a new trend," said Peter Williams of Acadametrics.

"Given the unusual factors influencing the start of 2010, there is considerable uncertainty which can only be answered in subsequent months."

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