2 May

Mortgage approvals and number of cash buyers in UK property market falling

UK home buyers borrowed £20.5 billion in March alone, according to the latest figures from the finance industry.

UK Finance said that figure was actually down 2.3 percent on the same month in 2017. Meanwhile, the number of mortgage approvals is also down 15 percent on the year, while house purchase approvals also fell by 21 percent.

However, Eric Leenders, managing director of personal finance at UK Finance, which represents the finance industry, said: “There was a rising trend in mortgage approvals for the first three months of 2018 although the number is slightly lower than the same period in 2017.”

The drop in mortgage approvals was matched by a similar fall in the number of cash buyers who purchased property without any lending required.

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Changing demographics affecting purchases

Figures from the Nationwide’s monthly house price index showed a sharp drop in cash buyers over the last 18 months, a trend the building society attributed to changes in stamp duty that mean second-home buyers pay an extra levy.

It noted that many purchases of second homes and buy-to-let or rental properties are cash transactions, and those have been affected by the extra stamp duty now due.

The Nationwide’s report said cash buyers had grown significantly after the financial crash a decade ago when home buyers found credit harder to access. And it outlined the changing demographics in the UK where more people now own their own home outright.

More homeowners own outright

Nationwide chief economist Robert Gardner said: “When these people transact – for example, moving home or downsizing – they are more likely to do so in cash. Indeed, the number of people in England who own their home outright overtook those who own with a mortgage in 2014.”

There was good news for first-time buyers with the Nationwide monthly index suggesting the number of first-time buyer transactions are now “broadly in line with pre-crisis levels”.

Robert Gardner added: “The easing in credit availability, including schemes such as Help to Buy, have helped boost activity.”