18 March 2019

Market Update. March 2019

The year has got off to a remarkably good start on the lending front, despite the well-documented political uncertainty. Clearly, many people have had enough with situations they can’t control and are getting on with their lives.

Lenders are keen to lend and rates remain extremely competitive. Many lenders have trimmed rates this year in an effort to encourage more business, while others are making innovative tweaks as an alternative to offering the cheapest rates in the market. Swap rates – the rate lenders use to hedge their interest rate exposure when pricing/offering fixed rates to mortgage borrowers – have dipped further over the past few days on the back of heightened uncertainty around Brexit but rather than cheaper mortgage rates, this is likely to result in lenders offering further perks such as cash back and free valuations.

The all-important first-time buyer numbers continue to improve as lenders offer more deals at high loan-to-values and the Help to Buy scheme remains popular, despite its critics. The stamp duty exemption for first-time buyers on properties worth up to £300,000 is also helping but affordability is still an issue for some, particularly those who can’t call upon the Bank of Mum and Dad for financial assistance.

Even buy-to-let lending numbers are not quite as bad as they have been – trade body UK Finance reports that while there was still some contraction in the sector in January, due to tax and regulatory changes, the rate of decline is less than in the same month last year. January also saw the highest number of buy-to-let remortgages on record as landlords carefully scrutinise their finances to ensure their portfolios are as efficient as possible.

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