Business

First-time buyer mortgages in north at 14-year high

Mortgages were written for 10,500 new first-time buyers in Northern Ireland last year

THE carrot of low interest rates, slowing house price growth and a mixture of competitive deals has led to first-time buyer mortgages in Northern Ireland hitting a 14-year high last year.

Not since the halcyon days before the property crash have so many people put a first rung on the property ladder, statistics from UK Finance show.

There were 10,500 new first-time buyer mortgages written in the north last year (2,900 in the last quarter alone), which was 9.4 per cent more than the previous year and the highest since the 2004 total of 10,600.

It meant that £1.1 billion of 'new' money was lent over the year.

New buyers entering the market is seen as vital for the overall wellbeing of the housing market, and the continued growth in first-time buyers shows healthy movement in this key area – despite a shortage of homes and the ongoing challenge of raising a deposit.

There were also 6,600 new home-mover mortgages issued in Northern Ireland in 2018, a rise of 6.5 per cent on 2017 and the highest equivalent figure in a decade. That led to £0.9 billion of new lending.

The secondary home market also remains vibrant, according to UK Finance, with 9,500 re-mortgages being approved last year (up 11.8 per cent and representing more than a billion pounds in monetary value).

Jackie Bennett, director of mortgages at UK Finance, said: “The Northern Ireland mortgage market saw the strongest performance of any UK region in 2018, with sustained growth across all sectors.

 

“First-time buyer mortgages reached a 14-year high, as borrowers took advantage of what remains the UK’s most affordable housing market. Home-mover mortgages also saw strong growth, bucking the trend when compared with the rest of the country.

 

“Meanwhile home-owner remortgaging reached its highest level in nine years, as fixed-rate loans came to an end and customers locked into attractive rates.”

Patrick Mullan, head of mortgages at Danske Bank, said the figures show that the market has not only remained resilient but demand has increased, even in the face of uncertainty caused by the Brexit process and the perceived impact this has had on the overall pace of economic growth.

He said: “This survey indicates the local housing market is still growing. Northern Ireland is still the UK’s most affordable region and with house prices expected to rise at a steady rate of between 4 and 5 per cent annually, we believe there is capacity for further sustainable growth in 2019.”

In the UK as a whole, last year saw first-time buyers account for the majority of the new housing market since 1995.

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