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Posts Tagged ‘Housing market activity’

The princess, mood music and weak mortgage approval numbers

There is no bigger purchase than a house. Ask most individuals who have at some point in their life purchased a house and they will tell you about the considerable time they devoted to making the decision to purchase. It’s not like rushing to a supermarket and purchasing a kilo of sugar. The decision to purchase a property is not taken lightly: the mood music has to be right. Consumer confidence is therefore an important ingredient for an active housing market. The latest mortgage approval data from the Bank of England suggest the music is not right!

April’s mortgage approval numbers continue to demonstrate the on-going fragility of the UK housing market and, in turn, of British households. April saw 45,166 mortgages approved for house purchase. What makes this figure particularly noteworthy is that it is the lowest level recorded in the month of April since the Bank of England figures started back in 1993. It is also 9% lower than April 2010. Some commentators have argued that the number of public holidays in April contributed to the fall in activity. But, 138,756 approvals over the period from February to April was 4.3% lower than over the corresponding period last year. This would suggest that we can’t lay the blame for low levels of mortgage approvals solely on hot cross buns and Kate Middleton!

The weakness in mortgage approvals data has been regular news for some time. Over the past two years the number of approvals per month has been close to 50K compared to about 89K over the past ten years. What makes the latest figures troubling is that there is no indication of recovery any time soon. Rather, the figures show that housing demand may be weakening yet again. If we exclude December’s low of 42,772, when housing market activity was hit by the harsh winter conditions, April’s figure is the lowest since March 2009.

The weakness in the demand for housing can in large part be attributed to the poor mood music: economic growth remains fragile, average real incomes have been declining and unemployment levels are expected to rise over the coming months. Furthermore, households are naturally reluctant to purchase property is they think house prices may fall further. All in all, we can expect the weakness in housing demand to persist for some time. The question seems to be one of just how weak housing demand will be. The next few months promise to be very interesting to say the least. Keep listening to the music!

Articles
UK mortgage approvals hit record low in April Telegraph, Emma Rowley and Harry Wilson (2/6/11)
Mortgage approvals fall to record April low Guardian, Mark King (1/6/11)
Mortgage approvals fall to two-year low Financial Times, Norma Cohen (1/6/11)
Mortgage approvals hit new low, Bank of England reports BBC News (1/6/11)
UK mortgage approvals drop to lowest in four months on lower confidence Bloomberg, Scott Hamilton (1/6/11) )
Pound drops on weak UK manufacturing PMI and mortgage approvals data RTT News (6/1/11)

Data
Mortgage approval numbers and other lending data are available from the Bank of England’s statistics publication, Monetary and Financial Statistics (Bankstats) (See Table A5.4.)

Questions

  1. How sensitive do you think mortgage approval numbers are likely to be both current and future economic conditions?
  2. Are there any other types of purchases which households make which you might expect to be especially sensitive to economic conditions?
  3. Is it just the weakness in the demand for housing which explains the current low levels of mortgage approvals? Explain your answer
  4. Do weak mortgage approval numbers mean that we should expect house prices to fall in the months ahead? Use demand and supply diagrams to help explain your answer.
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Housing market activity flat-lining

The latest mortgage approval numbers from the Bank of England are another demonstration of the fragility of the UK housing market. March 2011 saw 47,577 mortgages approved for house purchase. This is roughly in line with levels seen since the turn of the year and, more generally, over the past year. In other words, activity in the housing market might be described as ‘flat-lining’.

Over the past year, the number of monthly mortgage approvals for house purchase has averaged 47,355. This number is almost half the 10-year monthly average of 89,258. There is little momentum in either direction in the number of mortgage approvals. Given the negative influences on both the supply of credit and on households’ demand for credit, it would be a major surprise if the monthly average for mortgage approvals was to rise much above the ‘50k-mark’ any time soon.

But, why the subdued mortgage data? Well, on the supply-side, mortgage lenders are maintaining tight lending criteria. On the demand side, households remain understandably cautious. Unless circumstances dictate a need to move, households are unlikely to be rushing in any great numbers to their local estate agent.

In conclusion, it appears that the current weak activity levels have become the new norm for the UK housing market post-credit crunch. Furthermore, the current flat-lining is likely to persist.

Articles
Mortgage approvals highest in five months Financial Times, Norma Cohen (4/5/11)
UK March mortgage approvals slightly lower than forecast Reuters (4/5/11)
Mortgage lending plummets by 60% Belfast Telegraph (5/5/11)
UK mortgage approvals little changed in March, BOE says Bloomberg, Jennifer Ryan (4/5/11)
Rise in mortgage approvals does not indicate recovery, say economists Guardian, Jill Insley (27/4/11) )
Mortgage lending from UK banks still subdued BBC News (27/4/11)

Data
Mortgage approval numbers and other lending data are available from the Bank of England’s statistics publication, Monetary and Financial Statistics (Bankstats) (See Table A5.4.)

Questions

  1. Why do you think housing market activity might be ‘flat-lining’?
  2. Compile a list those variables that you think affect the demand for mortgages. Which of these do you think are particularly important at the moment?
  3. Compile a list of those variables that you think affect the supply of mortgages by lenders. Which of these do you think are particularly important at the moment?
  4. If you were advising an estate agent about future activity levels in the housing market, what would you be telling them?
  5. What do recent mortgage approvals numbers imply for the strength of housing demand?
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No spring forward in mortgage approvals

An important measure of activity in the housing market is the number of mortgage approvals. Figures released by the Bank of England show that the number of mortgage approvals for house purchase, after seasonal adjustment, fell from 48,099 in January to 47,094 in February. This was the third consecutive monthly fall in the number of mortgage approvals and the lowest number since the 46,551 recorded back in May 2009.

If we take the latest three months as a whole (December 2009 to February 2010), there were 153,446 approvals worth £20.89 billion. Now, when compared with the same three months a year earlier we can see just how thin activity in the housing market was back then: the number of approvals is now 45.2% higher, while the value of approvals is 30.8% higher. But, it is short-term growth or, more accurately, the lack of it which is worrying commentators. It appears that much of the autumnal recovery in housing market activity is petering out. When we compare the figures for latest three months with those in the previous three months (September to November 2009) we find approval numbers down 10.7%, while the value of approvals is down 11.4%. In other words, it appears that housing demand is again weakening.

If we take a slightly longer-term perspective it becomes even clearer just how low, by historic standards, current activity levels are. Over the past ten years the average number of mortgage approvals for house purchase each month has been 94,443 – this is more than double the number reported for February. So, while the clocks may have gone forward, mortgage approvals are reluctant to move forward. But, more than this, it will be fascinating to watch in the months ahead the patterns in mortgage approvals and so monitor the demand for housing.

Articles
Mortgage lending falls to a nine-month low Times Online , Robert Lindsay (29/3/10)
Mortgage slowdown continues, Bank of England data shows BBC News (29/3/10)
Mortgage approvals fall to a nine-month low Financial Times, Daniel Pimlott (29/3/10)
BoE reports fall in February mortgage approvals Home Move, Kay Murchie (29/3/10)

Data
Mortgage approval numbers and other lending data are available from the Bank of England’s statistics publication, Monetary and Financial Statistics (Bankstats) (See Table A5.4.)

Questions

  1. Between September 2008 and the end of 2009, the government introduced what became known as a ‘Stamp Duty holiday’. This meant that buyers became liable to pay Stamp Duty (a tax on house purchases) on property purchases worth over £175,000 rather than over £125,000. How would you have expected the ‘Stamp Duty holiday’ to have affected activity levels during this period? And what types of buyers would have most benefited?
  2. The government announced in the March 2010 Budget that it is removing Stamp Duty for first-time buyers on properties up to £250,000 for a 2-year period starting from 25th March 2010. What impact might this have on current activity levels? What about in the run-up to its removal in 2012?
  3. In the March 2010 Budget, the government announced that a 5% rate of Stamp Duty was being introduced on properties of over £1 million from tax year 2011-12. Currently, a top rate of 4% is applied to properties over £500,000. How would you expect this to affect activity levels now, the closer we get to next April and then after April 2011?
  4. What can we infer from the recent patterns in mortgage approvals about the strength of housing demand?
  5. Do patterns in the number of mortgage approvals have implications for house prices? Explain your answer.
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