Property sales hit five-year high – HMRC

UK house sales increased last year to the highest levels seen since 2007, according to figures published by HM Revenue & Customs.

According to a report in The Telegraph, lenders hailed the figures as evidence that the “shutters are coming up” for mortgage borrowers.

There were 932,000 completed transactions last year, marking a 5pc increase on 2011, according to HMRC.

Meanwhile, the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) outlined evidence of why it believes the mortgage market is improving.

In its latest “news and views” release, the CML said: “Overall, there has been a marked sense of improvement in the mortgage lending landscape over the past year, which we forecast will continue in 2013.”

It said that at around 220,000 last year, the number of first-time buyers reached its highest level since the credit crunch started.

It also estimates that the share of first-time buyers getting on the property ladder without needing any extra help from parents has increased in the last couple of years.

The CML said: “We estimate that there has been a slow and steady increase in the proportion of first-time buyers buying without assistance from 32pc of all first-time buyers in 2009 to 36pc in 2012.”

The CML said yesterday that it expects mortgage lending to reach £156 billion this year, compared with an estimated £143 billion during 2012.

The HMRC figures showed that the number of sales in 2012 was still almost half the levels seen five years earlier.

However, sales picked up in the final quarter of last year to 237,000 transactions, showing a 4pc increase on the previous quarter and a 2pc increase on the same period in 2011.

The CML said: “It may be easy to overlook the recovery that has already quietly been under way in the mortgage market throughout 2012.

“Indeed, we suspect that consumer sentiment may not yet have caught up with the extent to which the mortgage market has already improved; and some commentators still take as their benchmark the over-heated market of the mid-2000’s.”

See full report here

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