Stamp duty rush boosts mortgage market activity

A recent report from Connells shows that demand from first-time buyers looking to beat the end of the stamp duty holiday bolstered mortgage market activity in January.
The total number of residential valuations conducted during January increased with 43% more valuations than a year ago. However, this represented a slight decline of 15% on a monthly basis, following the valuation market’s strongest December performance since 2007.
Increasing demand from first-time buyers was a key factor in the annual growth in activity. The number of valuations conducted for first-time buyers rose by 52% compared to January 2011. Although this represented a 2% monthly decline, valuations for first-time buyers grew as a proportion of the market in January. In fact, first-time buyer demand accounted for 32% of all valuations completed – the highest proportion since June 2011.
John Bagshaw, Corporate Services Director of Connells Survey and Valuation, comments: “A comparison against the strongest December since the downturn masks the underlying strength of the valuations market in January. The ongoing affordability of mortgages, not to mention lenders’ increasing commitment to higher loan to value lending, has helped boost valuations activity. However, there has also been a strong uplift in first-time buyer activity, with new buyers rushing to beat the end of the stamp duty holiday in March. In turn, this has unlocked activity further up property chains.
“While the flurry of first-time buyer activity is likely to subside slightly after March, the introduction of the government’s NewBuy scheme may help sustain buyer demand in the longer-term.”  
The remortgage market continued its annual growth in January, with remortgage valuations rising by 48% compared to January 2011. While the number of remortgage valuations dropped by 17% on a monthly basis, remortgaging now accounts for 26% of all valuations, the highest level since October 2008.
John Bagshaw continues: “Increasing product choice, alongside stubbornly low mortgage rates, has helped sustain the remortgage market. While an interest rate rise doesn’t look on the horizon this year, many borrowers are looking to cash-in on cheap fixed rates while they can to provide long-term financial security in the face of an uncertain outlook for the economy.”
Demand from both home movers and landlords contributed to the annual increase in housing market activity. While activity from owner occupiers moving home declined by 24% on a monthly basis, it increased by 40% annually. The number of valuations for property investors looking to expand their portfolios increased by one fifth (+21%) year on year, despite a monthly dip of 11%.
John Bagshaw concludes: “The buy-to-let market’s annual growth continued in January, as returning and first-time investors were enticed to the sector by an attractive combination of high yields and broadening options for mortgage finance. While the government scheme’s mortgage indemnity is likely to help
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