3 charts showing the effect of 'cooling measures' on the mortgage market

Figures published this morning show Bank of England measures to slow mortgage borrowing were more of a 'gentle dampener' than a 'hard break'.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2014

House prices may be a big deal to, like, everyone at the moment - but not Bank of England governor Mark Carney. He couldn't give a fig that the average price of a home in Hackney has now breached the half-a-million mark: he's made quite clear that what he cares about is household indebtedness. Specifically, mortgage repayments.

So have his 'cooling measures', designed not to reduce house prices but to reduce the size of loans borrowers are offered, had much effect? The measures - which include limiting the amount consumers can borrow to 4.5 times income and 'stress tests' to see if they could still pay off their mortgages, should interest rates rise 3% - were introduced as part of the Mortgage Market Review (MMR) in April. This  morning the Council of Mortgage Lenders published its monthly figures showing mortgage borrowing in June.

According to the figures, total gross lending grew 6% to £17.9bn between June and July, up 20% on June last year. So are Carney's cooling measures having an effect?

'For the second month running since new FCA [Financial Conduct Authority] rules took effect, lending characteristics remain similar to the market beforehand,' said CML director general, Paul Smee.

'We now feel confident that, as we would hope, the MMR effect is more gentle dampener than a hard brake... lending levels should continue to increase modestly over the course of the year.'

But what of those on the most vulnerable rungs of the ladder? They seem to be doing ok, too...

1. Lending to first-time buyers still rose in June...

Source: CML

In June, 28,600 first-time buyers took out mortgages, 7% more than the month before and 19% more than last June. The amount they borrowed - a crucial measure of the efficacy of the cooling measures - also rose, to £4.2bn. That's 11% higher than in May and 27% higher than June last year: a pretty steep rise, all things considered.

2. ... as did buy-to-let loans...

Source: CML

For a while there, it looked like buy-to-let was going out of fashion - but the sector has bounced back as those with money to spare plough it into the cash cow that is property. Thus, the number of people borrowing under buy-to-let schemes hit 15,600 in June, admittedly almost the same number as in May - but they borrowed £2.2bn, 38% higher than last year.

3. ... but remortgages fell

Source: CML

If buy-to-let is one end of the borrower spectrum (ie. those with cash to spare), remortgages are the other end - people who, for one reason or another, need some extra money. Of course, consumers don't always remortgage their house because it's urgent - it could be that they want some money to invest in  redecoration, or a new project. But on the whole, these are the borrowers least likely to pass banks' stress tests.

What's surprising is the CML figures show while the number of loans fell by 8% year-on-year, to 23,600; the loans' value increased 6% on the year, to £3.7bn. The quarterly figure showed the number of loans fell 5% in the second quarter, while their total value dropped to £11.3bn, down 2% on the previous quarter.

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