There has been another fall in the number of repossessions, the Council of Mortgage Lenders has reported, although the number of households in serious arrears has risen.
Since the end of 2008, repossessions have now fallen by 31% but the number of borrowers in serious arrears has increased 18%.
In the last quarter of 2012, 7,700 homes were taken into possession by first-charge mortgage lenders, down from 8,200 in the previous quarter.
This is the lowest quarterly number since the fourth quarter of 2007.
On an annual basis, repossessions last year fell from 37,300 in 2011 to 33,900 in 2012 – the lowest annual figure since 2007. The stock of properties in possession held by lenders at the end of 2012 was also at its lowest for over five years.
The overall number of households experiencing mortgage arrears also fell, although the number of households with serious arrears – more than 10% of the mortgage balance –rose slightly.
Altogether, a total of 157,900 households ended 2012 with arrears of 2.5% or more of the mortgage balance, compared with 161,400 households at the end of 2011 (and 216,400 at the peak of the current arrears cycle at the end of the first half of 2009). This maintains the arrears rate at 1.4%, the same rate for the second consecutive year.
However, the number of cases with the highest arrears increased slightly from 28,200 at the end of 2011 to 28,900 at the end of 2012.
Richard Sexton, director of e.surv chartered surveyors, said: “If the number of borrowers in serious arrears continues to increase, which it has done for the last ten consecutive quarters, lenders will eventually have to pull the plug.”
He said lenders’ forebearance could not last forever.