Disappointing mortgage figures suggest housing market is increasingly cautious

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The Bank of England is warning that approvals of mortgages for property purchases in March were at a lower-than-expected 66,837, the weakest figure since last September.

It is the second month in a row that approvals have fallen.

Mortgage lending – a figure which lags behind approvals – rose by a disappointing £3.1 billion in March. The annual increase was the weakest since November 2015.

Former Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors residential chairman Jeremy Leaf, a north London estate agent, says the figures are surprising.

“They are fairly similar to February’s data, when one would normally expect a seasonal pick up at this time of year. Yet we are not seeing the uplift we would have expected. However, they reflect what we are seeing on the ground – the market is behaving quite cautiously, partly to do with Brexit and the general election, with people being very nervous about taking on extra debt unless they are sure about the outcome.”

Howard Archer, an economist at business analytics consultancy IHS Markit, says the figures “add to the evidence that the housing market is being increasingly affected by the increasing squeeze on consumers and their concerns over the outlook.”

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