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Leap in mortgage approvals in 2013, says Bank of England

image captionFirst-time buyers have been driving the rise in mortgage applications

The number of mortgages approved for house purchases rose by 20% in 2013 compared with the market doldrums of the previous year.

There were 734,969 home loans approved in during the year, with the numbers accelerating towards the end of the year, the Bank of England data shows.

This was up from 612,654 the previous year, when many first-time buyers were locked out of the mortgage market.

Lending remains well below the peak of the housing boom.

'More to come'

Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, said he expected demand to keep rising in 2014, but that mortgages would not get any cheaper.

"We expect this to continue this year as Help to Buy [government-backed mortgage scheme] gets into its stride and lending appetite remains strong, with most lenders aiming to do more lending than they did last year," he said.

"While we don't expect mortgage rates to shoot up in the short term, fixed rates have bottomed out and are starting to climb again so borrowers need to think ahead.

"However, there is no need to panic just yet. It is still possible to fix for five years at around 3%, which is incredibly good value."

The Bank of England figures show that total lending to individuals has been pushed to record highs in recent months by the revival in the housing market.

By the end of December it stood at a new peak, with outstanding loans, including mortgages and consumer debt - such as credit cards and overdrafts, reaching £1.435 trillion.

Richard Koch, head of policy at the UK Cards Association, an industry trade body, said that there had been a steady decline in new credit card borrowing in recent years, despite a recent pick-up.

This was the result of consumers taking a safety-first approach to borrowing during the financial crisis.

"Consumers are now using the interest free periods that credit cards offer and then paying off their balances faster," he said.

"Responsible lending is at the heart of the industry, and the vast majority of consumers use their credit card prudently. However for those individual consumers that are facing difficulty, for example after a change in personal circumstances such as redundancy, illness or separation, there is a clearly established system of support including sources of free, independent debt advice."

He added that people should look at their annual statement from their credit card supplier in order to help them budget.

Related Topics

  • UK economy
  • Personal finance
  • Housing market