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UK Mortgage Lenders Not Immune to Eurozone Crisis

by Alison Feemantle

UK financial analysts are warning that the crisis hitting many parts of Europe at present may filter through to Britain to the extent that mortgages may become even scarcer to track down than they are at the moment.

Financial trading continues to operate with fewer borders and as such, UK banks with a Europe-wide presence are going to feel the effects of the current problems and their mortgage arms may be set to tighten their criteria and maybe even remove some products altogether.

According to the Council of Mortgage Lenders, short term prospects for the UK mortgage market were going to be directly affected as a result of the on-going problems in Greece and elsewhere. Recent figures released by the CML have shown an easing of mortgage lending following a spike at the start of 2012 as many borrowers sought to take advantage of the stamp duty holiday.

Gross mortgage lending for April stood at £10.2 billion and while that represented a fall of 19% from March, it was still 2% higher than for the same period in 2011. The stamp duty window was always going to give a false picture and the fact that lending is higher than a year ago might give cause for optimism but the CML have warned against complacency.

“The underlying picture appears to be one of easing momentum in the housing market, but with potential for a sharper downwards correction on bad eurozone news,” said Bob Pannell, chief economist at the CML.

Meanwhile, mortgage brokers are urging borrowers to be alert to the danger that the crisis may bring as lenders consider their options.

“The cross-border nature of banking means that UK banks cannot remain immune to what happens in the eurozone,” said Mark Harris of SPF private clients.

“While interest rates are unlikely to rise for three to five years, supporting the market to an extent, borrowers must keep an eye on lenders raising mortgage rates regardless and take action if required and if they are able to.”

On many occasions in the past, prospective buyers may have been put off by dramatic headlines in the media and it is also felt that this factor may apply in the current climate.

“Few could argue that the demand for property, already weak, has been dealt a further blow by the deterioration of the Eurozone,” said Martin Stewart of London Money.

“With apocalyptic headlines every day, who wants to commit to a transaction as big as moving house?”

The volatile situation looks set to continue for the coming months but how much effect will the news from Greece and elsewhere start to have on the UK mortgage market?

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