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Lending hits eight-year high in February

Gross mortgage lending in February hit its highest level for eight years after leaping 30% year-on-year.

Lending totalled £17.6 billion which marks a fall from £18.5 billion in January.

But it is still the highest lending total for a February since 2008 when gross lending hit £24.1 billion, according to the Council of Mortgage Lenders.

Brian Murphy, head of lending at Mortgage Advice Bureau (MAB), said although gross mortgage lending fell between January and February, this is a common seasonal trend.

“Borrowers and lenders alike clearly have an appetite for business.

Rock-bottom mortgage rates have played a key role, giving those who meet affordability criteria a boost onto the property ladder."

Murphy said the Lifetime Isa, proposed by Chancellor George Osborne in his Budget on Wednesday, would help more buyers get on the properly ladder but added that the market urgently needs a comprehensive housebuilding programme to address supply-side issues.

“If the current imbalance is not addressed, property prices will climb out of reach for some borrowers.”

Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, said higher wages, falling unemployment, cheap mortgage deals and low interest rates are boosting confidence and promoting growth.

“We expect this situation to continue in coming months. There are potential hiccups on the horizon which may foster some uncertainty, such as the EU referendum, but for many people life will go on and it will be business as usual.

“The challenger banks are keen to lend, while more established lenders also wish to bring in more business.”

Harris said that independent advice will be crucial, particularly for older, self-employed or interest-only borrowers.

Peter Rollings, chief executive of Marsh & Parsons, said: “The mortgage market knocked it out of the park in February, with lending up by nearly a third year-on-year.

“We’re on the final stretch now before the 1 April stamp duty changes come into force, and this has frontloaded buy-to-let lending into these early months of the year.

“Once the deadline passes it will quickly revert to business as usual, and a subsidence in buy-to-let borrowing will likely water down the growth in the mortgage market.”  

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