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A brighter outlook for mortgages

They say a week is a long time in politics. A year seems like a lifetime in mortgages but are we in a better position today than we were 12 months ago? It certainly feels better and I have identified a number of positive recent changes that support my view.

Research from Yorkshire Building Society suggests 1.7 million people are now able to remortgage from standard variable-rate deals, if they choose to, saving themselves up to £1.8bn in the process. This assumes a stronger availability of 85 per cent products.

According to Moneyfacts, the 85 per cent loan to value market is now supported by 345 different products compared with 186 a year ago, an 85 per cent increase. The percentage increases are more dramatic at 90 per cent loan to value, with 152 products now available compared with 71 a year ago, an increase of 114 per cent, and simply spectacular at 95 per cent loan to value, with 13 products now available compared with three in 2009, an increase of 333 per cent.

The buy-to-let market is also showing signs of resurgence. Unbelievable as it may sound, there were 3,662 products at the height of the 2007 boom, dropping to 179 at the low of September 2009, but we are now back at 304, with ever increasing competition, the return of Saffron and Melton Mowbray building societies to name two, and continued talk of further re-entrants as the year unfolds.

We are also seeing an increase in competition in the mainstream markets, with improved products and criteria from a number of lenders. Skipton is back in and Northern Rock, Accord, Woolwich and ING have all reduced rates.

The bigger-loan sector is also vastly improved, with mainstream providers such as Abbey and Woolwich providing competition for the private banks still eager to lend.

And finally the mortgage market review. The biggest single change for mortgage intermediaries will be individual registration of advisers. This has to be viewed as a good thing. Well run businesses with strong compliance cultures have always undertaken detailed references of their staff and will find adapting to this new change fairly straightforward. Those that have been paying lip service and have been prepared to accept the waifs and strays of the industry will have a big shock.

I was also pleased to see the inclusion of the direct channels in the individual registration proposal. This may cause bigger headaches for those with huge workforces and we may see some decide to shrink or even close their direct offerings.

Before we all start switching the allinclusive in Turkey for a seven-star holiday in Dubai or rushing out to upgrade the motor, a word of caution. All of the above should be considered in the context of how bad the market was 12 months ago.

Many of our competitors have been unable to survive the spectacular decline we have endured but for those that have survived, congratulations.

We are not out of the woods but we are certainly looking forward to a much brighter future. Enjoy your holidays.

Mark Harris is managing director of Savills Private Finance

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