Thursday 23 February 2017 10:09 am

Mortgage lenders have just had their best January since 2008

Mortgage lending hit £18.9bn in January, new figures have shown – two per cent up on the same month last year, and the best January since 2008.

The Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) said the figure was down six per cent on December's £20bn – but added that the number of first-time buyers had continued to recover.

The CML said mortgage approvals for house purchase rose to 68,000 in the final three months of 2016, slightly lower than the 70,000 loans approved during the same period in 2015 – but a "marked improvement" from the 61,000 over the summer.

The Bank of England now expects 71,000 loans to be approved each month in the first nine months of this year.

However, the CML added that the much-vaunted Housing White Paper, which set out plans to increase housebuilding and help renters earlier this month, was unlikely to have much effect on the housing market.

"The paper did not introduce any dramatic changes, but it did helpfully outline a broad set of policies to try and address snag points in the housing market," it said.

"As it takes time for the government to consult and implement the proposed changes, the impact of these policies are likely to fall in 2018 and beyond."

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London's burning

Yesterday figures from the CML showed the number of home buyers in London fell to a four-year low in 2016, with buyers borrowing £24.5bn for house purchase, down 0.4 per cent on the year before. 

Home mover activity in particular continues a downward trend, with the fewest loans since 1991," CML director general Paul Smee.

That trend continued in today's figures: "Buy-to-let and home movers have taken a firm back seat as activity in both sectors has been weak since the stamp duty change in April 2016," said the CML.