April sees slight rise in loans for new home purchase, amid surge in remortgaging as borrowers switch deals

Mortgage lending to homebuyers rose slightly in April, according to figures from the British Bankers' Association (BBA).

Some 38,700 loans for house purchase were approved in April, totalling £5.9bn, an increase on March's 35,500 loans totalling £5.6bn.

However, the figures represent a 39% fall in lending for house purchase compared with the same period a year earlier.

Remortgaging activity, on the other hand, has shown a 20% rise over the past year as borrowers switch in search of better deals, and now accounts for more than half of all activity in the mortgage market.

David Dooks, BBA statistics director, said: “Pressures on household finances, stalling house prices and tighter lending criteria in response to lower liquidity are all constraining demand for house purchase and equity withdrawal loans, which are both well down on levels last year. In contrast, there is an active remortgaging market as people switch lenders to obtain better deals.”

There are tentative signs that the range of deals on the market may be starting to show improvement.

Last week saw First Direct reopen its doors after seven weeks in which no applications were accepted from new lenders.

Today brings good news for first-time buyers, as the 100% mortgage deal reappears on the UK market.

First-time buyers feared they had seen the end of such offers when Abbey withdrew its 100% deal last month. But now the Edinburgh Solicitors Property Centre has linked up with Bank of Ireland to offer access to the bank's 1st Start guarantor mortgage.

The deal allows a relative to act as guarantor on the mortgage until a 5% equity level is reached. The mortgage is available over three or five years at a rate of around 7%.

First-time buyers have been especially hard hit by the credit cruch. The proportion of property sales made to first-time buyers fell in April to 7.7%, the third monthly fall in a row, according to the National Association of Estate Agents. This was a 10.3% fall on the same month a year earlier.