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Posts Tagged ‘Mortgage approvals’

The new cooler UK housing market?

The housing market is an incredibly fascinating market to monitor and to research. The market was at the centre of the financial crisis with some lenders accused of over-aggressively expanding their mortgage books and relaxing their lending criteria. The UK housing market of today looks very different to the market before the financial crisis. Nationally, house prices are stagnant while transaction numbers are less than half their pre-crisis level. The UK housing market appears almost as ‘cold’ as the recent weather!

As the first chart shows, the annual rate of house price inflation across the UK has been consistently close to or even below zero over the past couple of years. The latest figures from the Nationwide Building Society point to the average UK house price in the final quarter of 2012 being 1.1 per cent lower than in the final quarter of 2011. The figures from the Halifax concur with their estimate showing UK house prices 0.3 per cent lower year-on-year in the final quarter of 2012. This is a very different picture from that during the 2000s. As recently as 2007, the annual rate of house price inflation was in excess of 10 per cent.

Another indicator of the changing face of the UK housing market is the level of activity. The second chart shows the number of transactions per quarter across England and Wales since 1996. The figures from the Department of Communities and Local Government show that since the start of 2010 England and Wales has seen an average of 159,000 transactions per quarter. This compares with an average of 294,000 transactions over the period from 1996 to the end of 2007. Hence, the number of purchases today is roughly half the level prior to the financial crisis.

A further indicator of today’s very different housing market is the numbers of approvals by lenders for mortgages for house purchases. The latest Bank of England figures show that across the UK, the number of approvals each month in the first eleven months of 2012 averaged 51,000. Since 2010, the average monthly number of approvals has been 49,000. However, over the period from 1996 to the end of 2007 there were over 102,000 mortgages being approved each month.

A trawl through some of the key indicators of the UK housing market helps to paint a picture of a market that is markedly different to that before the financial crisis. It would be a big surprise in today’s financial and economic climate if there were to be any significant change in the path of these indicators for some time.

Data
Statistical data set – Property transactions Department of Communities and Local Government
Nationwide house price index Nationwide Building Society
Halifax House Price Index Lloyds Banking Group
Lending to individuals – November 2012 Bank of England

Articles
UK house prices drop 1% Guardian, Hilary Osborne (3/1/13)
House prices on course to pass pre-crisis peak levels Telegraph, Roland Gribben (21/1/13)
House prices rise at highest rate in seven months Independent, Vicky Shaw (15/1/13)
UK mortgage market ‘now more robust’ BBC News, (21/1/13)
Bank of England report flags improving mortgage market Telegraph, Emma Rowley (21/1/13)

Questions

  1. Draw up a list factors that are likely to have affected each of our 3 indicators of the UK housing market (house price inflation, transactions and mortgage approvals) since the late 2000s.
  2. Using a demand-supply diagram, illustrate the forces that have affected house prices in the late 2000s and early 2010s.
  3. Draw up a list of issues surrounding the housing market that would be of interest to a microeconomist. Now repeat the exercise for a macroeconomist.
  4. Why are house prices so notoriously volatile? Can you think of any other markets where prices are similarly volatile? Do these markets share any common traits?
  5. If you were a commentator on the UK housing market what would you be forecasting for prices and activity in 2013?
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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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More house price gloom

House prices are in the news again, but that should come as no surprise because they are such a favourite topic of the British! Three different organisations – the Halifax Bank, the Nationwide Building Society and Rightmove – have all reported that house prices fell in November. The Halifax reported a 0.1% fall, the Nationwide a 0.3% fall and Rightmove a 3.2% fall. The Halifax and Nationwide base their figures on house price information supplied by prospective mortgage applicants while Rightmove report the average asking price of those putting their property on to the market. We should not worry too much about the variations in the magnitude of the reported price falls because the downward trend in house prices is now pretty well established. The Halifax, for instance, has reported five monthly falls since April and they estimate that the average house price over the three months to November is 0.7% lower than a year ago. While the other two organisations are still reporting annual house price inflation rates in positive territory, these rates too are edging closer and closer to negative territory.

The recent falls in house prices come after a rebound in prices in the second half of 2009 which carried on into the early months of this year. The Nationwide had annual house price inflation rates peaking in the spring at around the 10% mark. This appears to have reflected an increase in housing demand and can be seen in the Bank of England mortgage approval numbers for house purchase which recovered from as low as 26,702 in November 2008 to 59,215 in November 2009. By April, Rightmove was reporting that property supply was beginning to outstrip demand and in their May report they noted that suppliers were coming on to the market more quickly than at any time since June 2008. It is argued that supply increased further through late May and into June when the new coalition government suspended house information packs (HIPs). HIPs were a set of documents, including a property information questionnaire, which a seller needed to provide before a property could be marketed.

Rightmove reported in their November press release that the number of new sellers coming to the market each week between 10 October and 6 November averaged 24,028. This was a fall of 9.1% on the previous 4-week period. But, we need to see this reduction in the context of housing demand and the mortgage approvals numbers again provide clues as to the strength of housing demand. The fall in approvals in October to just 47,185 approvals was the sixth consecutive monthly fall. This number of approvals, as Rightmove note, is about half the monthly number of additional properties coming on to the market. In other words, the flow of properties coming on to the market is contributing to a large stock of properties on the books of estate agents. While some existing suppliers have been taking their property off the market, Rightmove note that the current average number of unsold properties on estate agents’ books is only a little down on the historic high reported a couple of months back. This leaves sellers fighting over a limited number of prospective buyers.

In the short term, the extent of further downward pressure on house prices will depend on extent of the imbalance between demand and supply. If a large number of suppliers begin to remove their property from the market, perhaps on the hope that the market will improve later next year, this would help to address the imbalance. Equally, if first-time buyers were to return to the market in larger numbers then that too would help to alleviate downward pressure on prices. The latter, however, is unlikely given the tight credit conditions which are resulting in potential first-time buyers struggling to find the deposit needed to get on to the property ladder. It seems that while many wannabe buyers of property may have a willingness to purchase, their ability to purchase continues to be frustrated by their inability to find the necessary deposit.

Articles
House prices slip further in November Financial Times, Norma Cohen (9/12/10)
Bonus for first-time buyers as house prices plummet for the third month in a row Daily Mail (9/12/10)
House prices drop fort he third month, has the bubble burst? London Daily News (9/12/10)
House prices fall 0.1% but hopes rise Independent, Peter Cripps (9/12/10)
House prices drop amid mortgage ‘deep freeze’ Telegraph, Myra Butterworth (9/12/10)

Data
Mortgage approval numbers are available from the Bank of England’s statistics publication, Monetary and Financial Statistics (Bankstats) (See Table A5.4.)
Halifax House Price Index Halifax (part of the Lloyds Banking Group)
Nationwide House Price Index Nationwide Building Society
Rightmove House Price Index Rightmove
Live Tables on Housing Market and House Prices Department of Communities and Local Government

Questions

  1. Tracking house prices is like following a roller-coaster ride! See if you can re-tell the story of UK house prices over the past year using demand and supply diagrams.
  2. Why do you think UK house prices are so volatile? Can you point to any other market where prices are so volatile? If so, do they share any common features?
  3. How important are first-time buyers in affecting house prices? What factors do you think affect the number of prospective first-time buyers deciding to enter the housing market?
  4. Using a demand and supply diagram illustrate the effect on house prices of: (i) a tightening of financial institutions’ lending criteria; (ii) the expectation of forthcoming house price falls; and (iii) increasing economic confidence .
  5. Although UK house prices are volatile they do increase over the longer-term and by more than the average price of consumer goods and services. What might explain this?
  6. What do we mean by a demand-supply imbalance? Would you expect this imbalance to continue?
  7. The average house price is currently falling. But, different housing markets will have their own price patterns. What might explain any differences in house price patterns across different housing markets?
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Concerns for housing demand as mortgage approvals decline again

The latest mortgage approval numbers from the Bank of England continue to demonstrate the fragility of the UK housing market and, in particular, waning levels of activity. The 47,474 approvals in September was the lowest number since February. The downward momentum in approvals has gained pace in recent months. The number of approvals in Q3 was 2.9% lower than in Q2 and was 11.5% lower than in Q3 of last year. All of this provides evidence that housing demand is weakening.

Tight credit conditions have affected the supply of mortgages for some time and, as a consequence, negatively impacted on the number of house buyers. This is likely to be especially true for potential first-time buyers who have no housing equity with which to help purchase property. But, the marked downward momentum in mortgage approvals is reflecting a weakening in housing demand.

So what explains this weakening of housing demand? In part, it is likely to be current economic conditions. But, expectations of future economic conditions are crucially important in determining activity levels in the housing market. With concerns about future economic growth it would be no surprise if households are feeling more than a little cautious about their spending plans and about their household finances. Economic uncertainty amongst households does not bode well for activity levels in the housing market. If this line of thinking is right we can expect mortgage approvals numbers to remain subdued for some time to come.

Articles
Drop in mortgages sparks concerns over house price falls The Herald, Ian McConnell (30/10/10)
Housing dip feared as mortgage approvals stall Guardian, Mark King (29/10/10)
UK mortgage approvals decline Irish Times (29/10/10)
Net mortgage lending slumps to just £112 million Independent, James Moore (30/10/10)
Mortgage approvals lowest since Feb Reuters (29/10/10)

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. What variables do you think will affect the demand for mortgages?
  2. What variables do you think will affect the supply of mortgages by lenders?
  3. What do you understand by housing and mortgages being complementary products? Why might the complementary relationship between housing and mortgages be stronger for first-time buyers?
  4. If housing demand weakens, would we expect house prices to fall? Are there circumstances when a weakening of demand might not translate into lower house prices? Illustrate your answer using demand and supply diagrams.
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Mortgage approval numbers flatline – is the housing market heading for trouble?

You may have heard that house prices are stalling. August’s house price numbers from the Nationwide Building Society revealed that the average UK house price fell by 0.9% which came on the back of a 0.5% fall in July. The Nationwide talks of an ‘unwinding of the demand-supply imbalance that drove up prices for much of the last year’. It seems that the house price rises last year have, over recent months, induced additional supply by encouraging home-owners to put their property on the market. Unfortunately, there are indications that housing demand has weakened during 2010 though, of course, this gives buyers a greater degree of bargaining power.

But, you might wonder how we can get a handle on the strength of housing demand. Well, one particularly useful piece of information in assessing housing demand is the number of mortgage approvals for purchasing property. After all, there are not many of us that can reach into our back-pocket to find the £166,507 that the Nationwide estimates is needed to buy the average UK property.

If we look at Table A5.4 from August’s edition of Monetary and Financial Statistics, which is published by the Bank of England, we find that the number of mortgage approvals for house purchase in July was 48,722. Now, this was marginally up on the 48,562 in June, but, of more significance is the fact that July’s number was over 8% lower than in July 2009 when approval numbers stood at 53,126. Indeed, this number was to rise further through 2009, hitting 59,117 in November. This indicates a strengthening of housing demand at the time and helps us to appreciate why house prices rebounded last year.

But, the start of 2010 was to see mortgage approval numbers fall away and they have essentially flatlined over recent months at between 48,000 and 50,000. This time the numbers indicate a weakening of housing demand and so help to explain why house price growth has seemingly ceased and gone into reverse.

It remains to be seen how the balance between housing demand and supply will ‘play out’ over the remainder of the year. Will, for instance, some properties be taken off the market in response to this weaker demand? Could housing demand weaken further in response to economic conditions or to economic uncertainty? The answers to these questions will help to determine that all important balance between housing demand and supply. But, by monitoring the mortgage approval numbers we have a ready-made barometer on the strength of housing demand. Feel free to see which way the barometer needle swings in future!

Articles
UK mortgage approval rise but total lending weakest since March Telegraph (31/8/10)
House prices set to slump even further as home loans stay scarce Independent, Sean O’Grady (1/10/10)
Housing market ‘faces double dip’ Press Association (31/8/10)
UK mortgage approvals beat estimates as banks make more funds available Bloomberg, Scott Hamilton (31/8/10)

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. What variables do you think are important in affecting the level of housing demand?
  2. What variables do you think are important in affecting the level of housing supply?
  3. Using a demand-supply diagram illustrate how shifts in housing demand and/or supply may have affected house prices (i) during 2009 and (ii) during 2010.
  4. What would you expect to happen to the strength of housing demand in the coming months? How will this impact on house prices?
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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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Can’t get approval? Mortgage approvals fall again

One measure of the level of activity in the housing market is the number of mortgage approvals for house purchase. While a small number of approvals will not result in transactions because house purchases can ‘fall through’, the current number of approvals is, nonetheless, an extremely good guide to transaction levels in the near future. The seasonally-adjusted approval number for January 2010 reported by the Bank of England was 48,198. This has drawn a fair amount of attention because it was the lowest since May last year and it was the second monthly fall in a row.

The increase in mortgage approval numbers seen in the second half of last year represented an increase in housing demand and helps in understanding why house prices rose over the same period. But, we should perhaps put January’s approval figure into further context. 2008 saw mortgage approval numbers collapse to only 451,350 (or roughly 37,600 per month) from 1,323,609 (or roughly 110,300 per month) in 2007. The average monthly number of approvals across the last decade was 95,000 – roughly double January’s number.

So what a trawl through the figures shows is that the current level of approvals is by historic standards low, but still above the incredibly low levels seen during 2008. But, more than this, it suggests that we perhaps need to get accustomed to relatively low mortgage approval numbers. With financial institutions and households alike needing to remain cautious and rebuild their respective financial positions, we should expect ‘new norms’, so far as activity levels are concerned, for quite some time to come.

Articles
UK mortgage approvals fall for second month in January: BOE RTT News (1/3/10)
Mortgage approvals drop sharply BBC News (1/3/10)
UK mortgage approvals drop to eight-month low Bloomberg.com, Scott Hamilton (1/3/10)
Mortgage lending dives after end of stamp duty holiday Independent on Sunday, James Thompson (14/3/10)
Housing market turnover falls despite record low rates on new mortgages Financial Times, Norma Cohen (13/3/10)
Fears grow that new mortgage drought could hit house prices Times Online, James Charles (13/3/10)

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. What factors do you think will have contributed to the fall in mortgage approvals in 2008? And what factors might explain the slight recovery in the second half of 2009?
  2. What factors do you think will be important in determining mortgage approvals in the months ahead?
  3. How might changes in the number of mortgage approvals be expected to affect house prices?
  4. What role might financial institutions, like banks and building societies, play in affecting UK house price growth in 2010? How might their influence compare with that in the period 2008/9?
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