The Council of Mortgage Lenders has warned that the availability of mortgage finance is set to reduce; in other words, that it is going to become even harder for house buyers to get a mortgage than it is already. Bad news for anyone trying to buy a house; bad news for anybody trying to sell a house; and bad news for anyone whose business is affected by the housing market. DIY retailers, for instance.
This would be more acceptable - or at least less unacceptable - if it was accompanied by the news that banks are continuing to struggle for survival. But the reality is that for the banks, the recession is fast becoming a distant memory. They are in fact doing rather well.
No such luck for house buyers - especially first-time buyers. According to the CML, around 2% of current mortgage loans are at 90% of property valuation, and there's no sign of that changing. For the overwhelming majority of first-time buyers, a 25% deposit requirement is still the best they can expect. And the CML's helpful advice to them (perhaps 'patronising' would be a better word): keep on saving up.
Why does any of this matter to DIY retailers? Because home owners spend far more on their homes than renters do; and because home buyers go into their new homes with a list of planned improvements. It might be a new kitchen, or might just be a couple of tins of paint; but it's all home improvement spending.
On average, this country sees something between 800,000 and 1.3m housing transactions a year. Right now, the figure is estimated to be around 500,000 - half the usual level. And the non-availability of affordable mortgages for first-time buyers means there is little prospect of improvement - because without first-time buyers, the market simply can't get moving.
Would that our government had the courage to remind the banks of three simple truths: you got yourselves into a worldwide banking crisis; we got you out of it; now it's payback time. It won't happen, of course. But in the meantime, it might be an idea to let your MP know that if he/she wants your vote next time around, then it would be a good idea to start demanding now that the banks return to what they are meant to do: lending money.
20 December 2010 | 09:32 |