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Mortgage lending falls in April, says CML

Image caption Mortgage lending has been very subdued so far this year

The total amount of money lent in new mortgages fell back in April.

The Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) said £10.2bn was lent, both to home buyers and other borrowers.

That was 12% less than in March and was the lowest figure for any April since the year 2000.

The subdued nature of the property market was highlighted by figures from HM Revenue & Customs showing that completed sales also fell slightly in April, down 2,000 from March to 71,000.

Home sales in the UK in the first four months of the year have been 26% up on the same period last year, but are still nearly half the level recorded in the pre-banking crisis years of 2005, 2006 and 2007.

Election effect

The CML said that the occurrence of Easter in April had led to a seasonal dip in lending, but acknowledged that the mortgage lending market was still sluggish compared with previous years.

Gross mortgage lending in the first four months of the year was 6% lower than in the same four months of 2009.

"There have been signs of increased mortgage availability in recent months, with higher loan-to-value mortgages becoming available and rates falling slightly," said the CML.

"But it remains a difficult market, particularly for first-time buyers without large deposits, and lenders continue to face funding challenges."

Brian Murphy, of the Mortgage Advice Bureau mortgage brokers, said the recent general election had also slowed down the property market in the past month.

"In April, many potential buyers held off to see what colour the new government would be and what potential impact there may be on housing and interest rate policy," he said.

'Suppressed demand'

The subdued outlook for mortgage lenders was underlined by the Bank of England.

In the latest edition of its monthly Trends In Lending publication, it said it was uncertain whether or not lending would see much of a recovery this year.

"Most major UK lenders continued to expect the stock of lending to pick up moderately in the remainder of the year, though some lenders noted the downside risks to their projections," it said.

"Data from the major UK lenders indicate that their approvals for house purchase edged lower in April," it added.

Despite an apparent easing of mortgage availability this year, with more deals being advertised to borrowers, the Bank said this had not, in fact, made much difference to would-be borrowers.

"Notwithstanding an increase in the number of products at loan-to-value (LTV) ratios between 75% and 89%, the proportion of loans advanced at LTV ratios above 75% has been little changed since spring 2009," the Bank said.

"Estate agent contacts reported that the availability of mortgage finance had continued to suppress demand for houses among first-time buyers," it added.

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