Mortgage approvals at two-year high ahead of buy-to-let tax

British banks approved the highest number of mortgages in almost two years in January, as investors prepare for the increase of stamp duty for buy-to-let properties and second homes, coming into force from April.

The British Bankers Association (BBA) said its members approved 47,509 loans, the highest figure since February 2014, up from a seven-year low in December of 43,660 [1].

Gross mortgage borrowing jumped 38% year-on-year in January to £13.6bn, its highest since mid-2008 [2].

The statistics reported similar findings to that of the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML), who reported an eight-year high in mortgage borrowing [3].

Net lending to non-financial companies also saw the biggest monthly jump since July 2008, as businesses take advantage of low interest rates [4].

BBA Chief Economist, Richard Woolhouse, said: “The start of the year has seen a significant rise in mortgage borrowing. It seems that this has been driven, in part, by borrowers looking to get ahead of the increases in stamp duty for buy-to-let, and second-home buyers scheduled to come into effect in April” [1].

Samuel Tombs at Pantheon Macroeconomics is confident of the trend: “Looking ahead, we expect approvals to remain on an upward trend. Consumer confidence is high, real income gains remain strong and mortgage rates are set to fall again in response to the decline in wholesale funding costs” [2].

Combined with “the active supply of homes on the market close to record lows, house prices look set for very strong gains,” Tombs continued [3].

[1] Reuters UK. ‘UK mortgage approvals rise near 2-year highs ahead of but-to-let tax – British Bankers Association’.
[2] Financial Times. ‘Mortgage borrowing surges to highest since 2008’.
[3] BBC News. ‘Banks report new year buy-to-let rush’.
[4] City AM. ‘House prices to climb further as mortgage lending hits highest level since 2008 in January’.