CML: Gross lending unchanged in December

As such the CML’s gross lending estimate for the fourth quarter of 2014 is £51.6bn, down 8% on quarter three but up 1% on the fourth quarter of 2013.

Overall, for 2014 the gross lending estimate is £205.6bn, up 17% on 2013's £176bn gross lending figure.

Bob Pannell, CML chief economist, said: "Housing market activity has been cooling and house price growth slowing in recent months, but 2014 was still the strongest year for mortgage lending since 2008.

“First-time buyers were a key driver, helped by government initiatives such as Help to Buy. As a result, the number of first-time buyers topped the 300,000 mark.

“While a far cry from the half million that we might regard as 'normal', this was the highest number of first-time buyers since 2007.

"Although lending remained muted in December, the previous monthly pace of decline in approvals appeared to moderate. So, alongside the big picture of a softer market, we are beginning to detect signs that underlying market conditions may be stabilising."

And Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, said 2014 can only be seen as a good year for lending despite the static end to the year.

He said: “Although gross mortgage lending was unchanged in December compared with the previous month, 2014 turned out to be a good year overall for the mortgage market with lending estimated at £205.6bn, up 17% on the previous year’s £176bn.

“Subsequently, 2014 was the best year for mortgage lending since 2008 and while we expect the housing market to be more subdued over the next few months, we are still predicting lending in the region of £215bn for the year.

“'While first-time buyers have been a key driver of the market last year, we expect the remortgaging market to be strong over the next 12 months with borrowers not so much fearing a rate rise but enticed by some of the astonishingly cheap deals now available.

“With this month’s minutes from the Monetary Policy Committee revealing that the Bank of England’s two hawks have dropped their calls for an interest rate rise, it seems unlikely that we will see rates go up this year, or even next.

“With inflation falling to 0.5% in December, its lowest level in nearly 15 years, the pressure is off the rate setters to move rates.

“Lenders have already reacted to falling Swap rates with record low mortgage rates. With ten-year fixes now available from just 2.94%, an exceptionally cheap deal for such certainty, more and more borrowers will be tempted to commit for the longer term.

“The next step is for lenders to start easing criteria rather than cutting rates, a move we hope to see this year.”