UK house prices: Mortgage lending enjoys best first quarter in nine years despite March dip

Kasmira Jefford
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Mortgage approvals fell on a monthly basis in March, masking a strong first quarter (Source: Getty)

Mortgage lending enjoyed its best first quarter in nine years thanks to buy-to-let landlords rushing to beat April's stamp duty hike, according to new figures published this morning.

An average of 71,710 house purchase loans were approved in the first three months of the year, the data from surveyors e.surv shows – making it the highest opening quarter since 2007 when 116,898 were granted.

However, lending dipped by 9.1 per cent on a monthly basis to 61,173 approvals in March compared with 73,871 in February.

E.Surv said some landlords were too late to beat the stamp duty surcharges last month and that the figures marking a "return to normal activity" with all borrowers, including first-time buyers, benefiting from a healthy range of mortgage products.

To date a total of 210,468 house purchase approvals have been granted this year, 13.5 per cent higher than 185,356 in the first three months of 2015. House purchase lending has also risen annually – up 8.2 per cent from 62,095 loans granted in March 2015.

Richard Sexton, director of e.surv chartered surveyors, said: “So far, it’s been a spring of sustainable lending.After a storm of activity from buy-to-let owners trying to beat the stamp duty deadline there’s been some more recent uncertainty about what the lending market will look like post-regulation."

Read More: Buy-to-let will be tougher in London after lending clampdown

"March has seen a calmer lending environment while remaining buoyant. Yes, house purchase loan numbers are slightly down – but overall borrowing levels are highly encouraging," he added.

Separate figures from LSL Property Services released today showed that March was also a record month for actual house sales as well as loan approvals.

In total there were 80,000 properties sold during the month – up 30 per cent since February – making it the strongest March for home sales since 2007.

Adrian Gill, director of Reeds Rains and Your Move estate agents, said: “This Spring, with a frantic flurry of activity, the housing market has come to life. As a result of the impending stamp duty hike, this has been the strongest March for home sales in nine years."

House price growth accelerated to 6.9 per cent on the year, with the average home now worth £291,650 or £18,745 more than a year earlier.