Mortgages at 'most affordable level' for 14 years

image captionThere were wide regional variations in affordability of mortgages

Mortgages are at their most affordable for 14 years after lenders slashed their rates, a report has found.

The study by the Halifax said payments accounted for 27% of average incomes in the second quarter of 2013 compared with a high of 48% in 2007.

The bank said lower mortgage rates and a fall in house prices were the main reasons behind the improved situation.

A government scheme called Funding for Lending also encouraged lenders to cut rates after it was launched a year ago.

Under the scheme banks can borrow money cheaply from the Bank of England providing they then lend it to businesses or individuals.

Craig McKinlay, mortgage director for Halifax, part of Lloyds Banking Group, said: "Substantial mortgage rate reductions and lower house prices have led to a significant improvement in mortgage availability since the peak of the housing market six years ago.

"The Funding for Lending scheme has helped lenders to cut mortgage rates, causing a further modest improvement in affordability over the past year despite the modest rise in house prices nationally."

'Turned corner'

The average share of mortgage payments as a proportion of income for new borrowers over the past 30 years is 36%.

Mortgage payments for new borrowers were most affordable in Northern Ireland at 17% of income, followed by Scotland (19%), Yorkshire and the Humber (22%) and north-west England (23%).

London was the highest at 36%, with south-east England at 34% and the south west at 32%. The average in Wales was 27%.

Camden in north London was the least affordable area in the UK with mortgage payments at 53% of income.

East Ayrshire in Scotland and Omagh in Northern Ireland were the most affordable at 14.7% of earnings.

Housing Minister Mark Prisk said: "This is another clear sign that the housing market has turned a corner, alongside new figures showing the numbers of new homes started is up by a third compared to last year and the numbers of first-time buyers are at their highest since 2007."

Price rise

Earlier this week official statistics showed the rate of house price inflation in the UK was continuing to rise.

Prices in the year to June rose by 3.1%, said the Office for National Statistics, up from 2.9% in May.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors said government help for the housing market, including its Funding for Lending scheme, had helped it pick up by improving mortgage availability.

It said the scheme had improved so-called loan-to-value ratios, or the amount that banks and building societies are prepared to lend on any property.

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