Published by MILLIE DYSONSurveying & Conveyancing |
First-time buyer activity hit its highest level since March 2009, according to the latest Housing Market Activity Report by Connells Survey and Valuation.
The total number of residential valuations conducted during February was nearly a third (31%) more than a year ago. However, this represented a month-on-month increase of 43%, as the usual seasonal rise was bolstered by a flurry of first-time buyers looking to beat the deadline for the stamp duty tax exemption.
Increasing demand from first-time buyers was a key factor in the annual growth in activity. The number of valuations for first-time buyers rose by 52% compared to February 2011, reaching the highest number since March 2009.
This represented a 56% increase in the number of valuations for first-time buyers compared to January. As a result, first-time buyer demand accounted for 35% of all valuations completed – the highest proportion since September 2010.
John Bagshaw, Corporate Services Director of Connells Survey and Valuation, comments:
“There’s no doubt that the imminent deadline for the stamp duty holiday exemption has been a catalyst for first-time buyer activity. Many first-time buyers are now feeling a real sense of urgency, and this has boosted overall mortgage market activity in the last month. But the first-time buyer demand has also been supported by stronger lending figures at the lower end of the market, not to mention mortgage affordability.
“If this trend continues into the spring, the improvement should help soften the blow of the end of the stamp duty holiday in the longer-term.”
The buy-to-let market continued to expand in February, with 38% more valuations conducted for property investors than in January. However, it wasn’t just a seasonal increase. On an annual basis, Connells conducted 50% more valuations for buy-to-let investors than a year ago.
John Bagshaw continues:
“Property investors have begun the year by signaling their intent to grow their portfolios. The private rented sector is currently growing by 262,000 households per year and landlords are looking to take advantage of this swelling demand. An increasingly diverse set of mortgage finance options are being made available, and if lenders can maintain this progress, buy-to-let will help underpin growth in the mortgage market as the year progresses.”
Valuation activity from owner-occupiers moving home increased more steadily on an annual basis, with the number of valuations conducted up nearly one fifth (17%) compared to February 2011. However, this represented a larger than usual seasonal increase of 51% compared to January, as growing first-time buyer activity freed up property chains.
The remortgage also market grew in February, with remortgage valuations rising by 18% compared to February 2011 – a monthly increase of 21%.
John Bagshaw continues:
“Remortgage activity has shown consistent annual growth in the past few months, despite the distant prospect of the MPC hiking interest rates. However, the recent announcement by Halifax that it is increasing its Standard Variable Rate is likely to spark a surge in remortgaging activity as those facing increasing costs take stock of their finances. If more lenders join Halifax in raising rates, we may see the remortgaging market kick-up a gear in coming months as borrowers look to lock-in to favourable long-term fixed or tracker rates.”