It is time for us to dip our toe again into the situation in the UK mortgage market as we know that via its impact on house prices it has an impact on both economic growth and inflation. Or to be more specific officially recorded economic growth but not inflation as the headline Consumer Price Index or CPI excludes owner-occupied housing costs. They were supposed to be added “soon” after its introduction back in 2003 but somehow they got forgotten for a decade and were then shuffled both by going into a subsidiary measure (CPIH) and by morphing into (usually lower) rental costs.
What is current Bank of England policy?
The headline is the Mortgage Market Review of late April 2014 which supposedly ended interest-only loans and tightened rules on the availability of high income multiples. Of course as I discussed last week interest-only loans simply metamorphosed and boomed in the buy to let sector whilst our valiant regulators myopically look elsewhere.
Meanwhile the pedal has been pushed near to the metal in many areas. After all we still have an emergency Bank Rate of 0.5% and £375 billion of QE which amongst other things was expected to reduce the cost of fixed-rate mortgages. The latter will be extended next week as some £6.3 billion of maturing Gilts gets rolled forwards in maturity some of it to the ultra longs as Operation Twist fires up again. Also we have the Funding for (mortgage) Lending Scheme or FLS which now amounts to some £61.4 billion of cheaper funding for UK banks and grew by £4.2 billion in the second quarter of 2015. Of course this is badged as being for business lending (struggling) and not mortgages (booming), but reality is rather different.
What about an interest-rate rise?
This seems to be fading into the ether in spite of the rhetoric and Open Mouth Operations of Bank of England Governor Mark Carney. Yesterday the latest member of the Monetary Policy Committee member Gertjan Vlieghe who had to be forced to give up his links to the hedge fund he previously worked for told us this. Form the Guardian.
A Bank of England policymaker has said UK economic growth must stabilise or pick up before he will be persuaded of the need to raise interest rates.
Actually it has been fairly stable but perhaps there were other priorities than checking on this when he was a hedgie. However he has spotted what since the UK Pound nadir of March 2013 has been a theme of this blog.
“We’ve had a huge tightening from the exchange rate,” said Vlieghe, who added that he would prefer an interest rate cut to another round of quantitative easing–
Ironically a side-effect of the currency rise may have reduced pressure on the UK housing market as for example we rose in round numbers from 50 Roubles to the UK Pound to 100. So some foreign buyers may have been deterred applying a brake for London perhaps whilst of course existing ones do something of a jig.
But Gertjan continued with his message.
there had been “a little bit of disappointment” on wage growth.
Really? I guess nobody challenged him as he ploughed a furrow which headlined with interest-rate rises then moved them into an unspecified future whilst somehow finding the time to mention an interest-rate cut! Have you notice how much more frequently interest-rate cuts are being mentioned by UK policy-makers?
As to QE additions I think that he is in line with Governor Carney here as his body language is plain when the subject is mentioned. Of course Mark Carney is a “dedicated follower of fashion” but as we stand QE in the UK seems fixed at £375 billion.
A substantial interest-rate increase for a few
Ironically one of the government policies to support the housing market has led to an interest-rate rise for some.The Halifax is offering an interest-rate of 4% compared to the 0.8% available on its ordinary cash ISA. This is quite a boost and is before we allow for the 25% bonus which you can get from the government which is tax-free. So a five-year savings plan would earn the equivalent of around 9% per annum.
However the Halifax changes its rates and others are more like 2% then ordinary cash ISA holders may well feel that there much lower interest-rates are cross subsidising the mortgage market. Perhaps our government should take a look, oh hang on, they created it…..
There is a dizzying list of schemes now under the Help To Buy banner. As you peruse the list below you might want to remind yourself that all this “help” is only necessary because the Bank of England policy moves have pushed us to a situation where house prices are up 18% in the credit crunch era and real wages are 6% lower. Indeed the numbers are worse for younger people who are more likely to be saving up for a property purchase.
With a Help to Buy: equity loan the Government lends you up to 20% of the cost of your new-build home, so you’ll only need a 5% cash deposit and a 75% mortgage to make up the rest.You won’t be charged loan fees on the 20% loan for the first five years of owning your home.
A mortgage supported by the Help to Buy: mortgage guarantee scheme works in exactly the same way as any other mortgage except that under the scheme the Government offers lenders the option to purchase a guarantee on mortgage loans.Because of this support, lenders taking part are able to offer home buyers more high-loan-to-value mortgages (80-95%).
I have already covered the Help To Buy ISA which subsidises a deposit so you can afford to enter a subsidised scheme! Also you may note that the government is supporting the high loan to value mortgages which were and indeed are supposed to be out of favour. But there is more.
We are seeing the return of Right To Buy in England at least.
The Right to Buy scheme helps eligible council and housing association tenants in England to buy their home with a discount of up to £103,900 (£77,900 outside London).
And we also have this.
Halifax is supporting the Governments MoD Forces Help to Buy scheme, which allows forces personnel to borrow up to £25,000 interest free (repaid over 10 years) to use as a deposit when buying a property to be used as their main home.
It is quite a list which has led to some speculation as to how many of these you could qualify for in one go? From Joe Sarling.
Will we end up paying someone to buy a house? That gets ever less ridiculous as we note that the junkie culture at play here needs ever higher doses of the drug. Oh and it would appear that I missed Help To Buy for London off my list so apologies.
Just when you thought that we had used up the policy measures that could support the UK housing market our establishment finds another. On the “Road To Nowhere” that we are on this has to continue as the “Help” is required because house prices are so high relative to incomes especially if we look at the incomes of those likely to buy a property. Even in a much better year for wages which 2015 has been both nominal and real wages have lost ground to house prices.
Today has seen more evidence of credit conditions doing their bit from the Bank of England dataset.
Lending secured on dwellings increased by £3.6 billion in October, compared to the average monthly increase of £2.8 billion over the previous six months.
The number of loan approvals for house purchase was 69,630 in October, compared to the average of 68,099 over the previous six months.
That is out of sequence with the electoral cycle which makes us wonder what “delights” will be served up as we approach 2020. Also in the past we have seen unsecured lending leak into the housing market when there are restrictions like the current MMR.
Consumer credit increased by £1.2 billion in October, in line with the average monthly increase over the previous six months. The three-month annualised and twelve-month growth rates were 8.8% and 8.2% respectively.
Meanwhile there are stirrings across the English Channel as we await to see if the European Central Bank fulfills its hints and promises to cut interest-rates even further on Thursday. Such an eventuality will have the Riksbank of Sweden, the Nationalbanken of Denmark and the Swiss National Bank on “action stations” later this week. We are already seeing markets adjust as Swiss ten-year yields fall to a record -0.41% and I wonder if the path for UK Bank Rate will be dragged lower? What about house prices then? Time for some music for prospective house buyers.
Help, I need somebody
Help, not just anybody
Help, you know I need someone, help
Should we hit even harder times and the bubble bursts then they will be joined by the UK taxpayer who is underwriting so much of this.
Help me if you can, I’m feeling down
And I do appreciate you being ’round
Help me get my feet back on the ground
Won’t you please, please help me