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.
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)
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.)
- Why do you think housing market activity might be ‘flat-lining’?
- 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?
- 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?
- If you were advising an estate agent about future activity levels in the housing market, what would you be telling them?
- What do recent mortgage approvals numbers imply for the strength of housing demand?