houses

Mortgage availability continues to rise

Since the collapse of the housing market and plummetting property values filled the mortgage companies with fear of taking on the risks of buyers defaulting on the their home loan, the number of mortgages available to buyers also fell. But over the last year the trend in both house prices and mortgage availability has been promising.

More mortgages are now available with lower deposits (higher loan-to-value) than a few months ago, and some lenders are prepared to risk more with first time buyers. All of this is good news if you are looking to buy a house, and although prices have recently fallen slightly, the overall trend is still for prices to increase. Increased mortgage availability should help more buyers into the market, increasing demand and pushing prices up.

But a note of caution – with house prices returning to the value current occupants bought at, more and more owners will feel ready to sell up – more houses on the market increases supply and therefore lowers the price. Some analysts think that this effect will start to work harder against the increasing demand, slowing growth in house prices, but not actually pushing prices back down.

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Tuesday, March 9th, 2010 Mortgages No Comments

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Tougher checks for borrowers

The Financial Services Authority (FSA) have today released mortgage reform proposals which are designed to regulate mortgage lenders and help prevent a repeat of the house price bubble that burst at the end of 2007. The approach they have set out is to prevent “reckless” lending to borrowers who can’t afford to repay the loan, which leads to foreclosures and repossessions and ultimately declines in the housing market.

The proposals seem to be designed to protect the borrower, by making it the responsibility of lenders and mortgage advisers to check that the mortgage is indeed affordable. There are proposals to prevent lenders charging the borrower for being in arrears, as long as the borrower is trying to reduce those arrears. However, as the BBC are reporting, there are fears that these measures would make it even harder for people to get a mortgage as lenders (who are already limiting the mortgage options available and the ease with which they can be taken) will insist of tough checks to make sure that the applicants really can afford the repayments.

Some commentators think that this might hurt the housing market, which currently needs all the help it can get, because it will mean fewer people buying houses. However, we should bear in mind that at this stage they are only proposals by the FSA, they may be modified or relaxed before they are introduced, and they are unlikely to take effect for 12 months or more. We may find, therefore, that a number of borrowers will try to take mortgages out before the new rules come in and lenders may be tempted to take advantage of this crowd by offering more and better deals. It’s not all bad news for those looking for a new mortgage, and we may see that this helps (in the short term) both house prices and the mortgage market. Long term, the reason behind the proposals is to make house prices and the market in general more stable, instead of the boom and bust that we have seen in recent years. This will mean house prices are unlikely to increase at the rate they did in the mid-2000s, but should manage a steady climb that is more reassuring for borrowers and lenders alike.

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Monday, October 19th, 2009 Mortgages No Comments

A ray of hope?

There’s good news in the housing market, at least for the moment. This article by the BBC shows that for the fifth month in a row, The Nationwide have reported an increase in house prices compared to the previous month. House prices are still lower than they were this time last year, but are on their way back up.

A couple of notes of caution, however, before we start celebrating the recovery of the housing market and the economy as a whole. Firstly, as you can see from the chart in the BBC article, house prices are also tracked by The Halifax and they have yet to release their results for July. Their June figures were noticeably less positive than those from The Nationwide and so perhaps they will not show the same improvement in July. Secondly, it is unlikely that this rate of growth can continue. Although the housing market is recovering, the economy is much worse than it was 2 years ago, the last time we had growth like this – there are fewer people working and less money available for house purchases. After the initial “correction”, we should see the prices increase at a lower rate.

And this could be no bad thing – after all, one of the largest causes of the current economic climate was the “house price bubble”, hopefully we have all learned our lesson (I’m including lenders and borrowers in that statement) and will take things slower from now on. Lenders are reticent to lend their money to high-risk borrowers, having been stung recently, and if they are properly regulated it should help stop people from being tempted into buying something they can’t afford. These two further articles from the BBC tell us that lenders are relaxing a bit and allowing more mortgages to be taken out – which means more house sales, which increases demand and therefore the price of houses. When we get the right balance between lending to no one and lending to everyone, we should see stable growth in the housing market (which is a good foundation stone for economic recovery).

We may get out of this mess yet.

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Saturday, August 1st, 2009 Economy, Mortgages No Comments

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