Affordability picture improving for first-time buyers

Monthly mortgage payments for first-time buyers are at their most affordable levels for nearly eight years, the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) has claimed.

The lender body said its data show that, although first-time buyers’ deposit requirements have remained stable in recent months at an average of 20%, their monthly interest payments have continued to fall and now typically consume 12.3% of income, the lowest level since January 2004.

The CML said that affordability for movers also improved, with this group paying an average of 9.2% of income on mortgage interest, the lowest level since monthly records began in 2002.

However, despite the improved affordability of monthly mortgage payments, deposit requirements for borrowers and the uncertain economic outlook are continuing to bear down on lending activity. In October, 44,500 loans for house purchase (worth £6.5 billion) were advanced, down from 48,200 (worth £7.1 billion) in the preceding month and from 46,900 (worth £6.8 billion) in October 2010.

Loans for remortgaging totalled 28,900 (worth £3.6 billion) in October, down from 34,200 loans (worth £4.3 billion) in September and 29,100 loans (worth £3.6 billion) in October last year.

The decline in house purchase lending affected both first-time buyers and home movers. First-time buyers took out 16,400 loans, worth £2 billion, in October, a 10% reduction from September’s total of 18,200 (9% down in value from £2.2 billion). Compared with last October, however, borrowing by first-time buyers was down by just 1% (with no change in lending by value).

Movers experienced a smaller drop from September, with the 28,000 loans (worth £4.5 billion) taken out in October, down 7% by volume and 8% by value. But, compared to first-time buyers, there was a larger decline for this group from October 2010 – down 8% by volume and 6% by value.

Although affordability of monthly interest payments for first-time buyers improved, average deposits for this group remained static for the eighth month in a row. Improved affordability for first-time buyers mainly reflects lower interest rates.

In October, the take-up of repayment mortgages increased yet again, to 97% for first-time buyers and 83% for movers.

Paul Smee, CML director general, said: “Despite the fall in lending in October