Mortgage approvals rose to a surprising nine-month high last month, while consumer borrowing increased at its slowest pace since May 2015, the Bank of England said today.
While the Bank said mortgage market activity was “broadly stable” in October, households borrowed an extra £4.1bn against their homes and the number of mortgages approved rose to 67,086, the highest since January.
The Bank's monthly report on borrowing and deposits also found that annual consumer credit growth slowed to 7.5 per cent, reflecting weaker lending flows – the lowest rate since May 2015 and “well below” the peak of 10.9 per cent in November 2016.
Consumer borrowing rose less than £1bn – £900m – for the second consecutive month reflecting weaker retail sales in recent months.
“Mortgage approvals for house purchases have essentially been locked in a 63,000-68,000 range for the past two years,” EY Item Club analyst Howard Archer said.
“Consequently, October's rise does not materially change our perception that the housing market is still finding life tough in the face of still limited consumer purchasing power, fragile consumer confidence and wariness over higher interest rates,” he added.
Archer said consumers were being more cautious in their borrowing and lenders were “warier” of unsecured credit.
Former Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyor (RICS) residential chairman and estate agent Jeremy Leaf said the mortgage data showed buyers and sellers were “getting on with moving” despite the market conditions.
He said: “Surprisingly perhaps, we have seen a pick up in enquiries over the past few weeks and sense that there is a feeling among buyers and sellers that they are fed up with sitting on the sidelines and not prepared to put off their moving decisions for much longer.”