At the peak in 2007 130,000 mortgages a month were being issued. House prices were rising, new buyers came into the market. The rise in interest rates and the credit crunch which the authorities organised in 2008-9 changed all that. Banks had to throttle back on new loans. Some individuals struggled to meet their mortgage payments. The number of new mortgages slumped to 30,000 at the worst in 2008.
There has been a reasonable recovery this decade. By January of this year the monthly rate of new mortgage approvals was running at 76,500. £18.5 bn was lent. By this September the figures have fallen back a bit. 61,000 new mortgages were arranged, with a value of £15 bn. This is still well above the low point, and well down on the high point of the bubble in 2007.
Home ownership is a good aim of public policy. It is far better to look forward to your old age knowing by then you will own your home and not face a rent bill. Owning a property will be cheaper than renting the same kind of property over a typical adult lifetime. Ownership also gives you greater flexibility about use,adaptation and decoration of your home, subject to planning rules for the bigger changes. It is also 0ften easier to switch homes and move locations if you own, than if you are a tenant in social rented accommodation.
Homes are less affordable today when comparing prices with incomes than forty years ago. Part of this reflects social change. Two earner couples are more common now, and greater account is taken of both incomes in mortgage calculations. Part of it means young people have to wait longer, save more, and achieve higher earnings levels before they can buy their first home. Some get round this by buying property jointly and sharing.
The Mortgage Market Review has required those advancing money to be properly trained, to take full account of the affordability of the mortgage for the individual, and to stress test the mortgage asking what would happen if interest rates rose. Some say this has held back mortgage lending in recent months as people adjust to the new system. Others say this is a welcome, as it should make it more difficult for people to take out unaffordable levels of new debt.
To have a healthy first time buyer market there also needs to be a sensible balance between new home construction and additional people seeking accommodation.