Valuation activity grew annually for a third consecutive month in December, according to the latest Housing Market Activity Report by Connells Survey & Valuation.
The number of residential valuations conducted by Connells in December was 2% higher than 12 months ago. This improvement came despite the expected seasonal fall in activity, down 15% from November.
December’s annual growth contributed to stronger performance from the valuations market in 2012 as a whole. The total number of valuations in 2012 was 12% higher than in 2011 – the most annual activity since 2007.
John Bagshaw, corporate services director of Connells Survey & Valuation, said: “2012 was the best year for the valuations market since the credit crunch began. We usually see the market pause for breath in December, and this was certainly the case compared to November. But three months of annual growth in valuations show how the mortgage market is now making steady, if still gentle progress.”
The annual rise in buy-to-let activity in December was key to year-on-year growth in the wider valuations market. In the month, there were 22% more buy-to-let valuations than a year ago, despite a monthly seasonal fall. Over the whole of last year, buy-to-let activity grew by 33% compared to 2011 – to represent 14% of all valuations in 2012, an increase from 12% of activity in 2011.
Bagshaw said: “Buy-to-let was favoured more than anything else by conditions in the housing market last year. Alongside growing tenant demand and rising rates, buy-to-let borrowers, who tend to have substantial equity, have benefitted from Funding for Lending bringing down mortgage rates even further at lower LTV bands. With the gap between rental income and mortgage payments looking lucrative, demand from investors is likely to remain strong as the year progresses.”
First time buyers also had a positive December compared to a year before, another key factor behind the total annual growth. Valuations for first time buyers grew 11% from December 2011, in spite of a monthly fall of 10%. First time buyer activity has now grown on an annual basis for four consecutive months.
“There were improvements in mortgage availability in the latter months of the year, but lenders’ criteria are still putting the brakes on serious progress,” said Bagshaw.
“For first time buyer numbers to really build up any steam this year, more buyers without substantial deposits will need to be able to access the finance they need to leave the private rented sector and overcome a difficult saving environment.”
Remortgaging saw a significant annual fall in December, with 16% fewer valuations compared to December 2011 – after a 16% fall since November. Meanwhile, the number of valuations for home movers also dropped in the month, falling 15%, to leave the number of home movers 2% lower than a year before.
Bagshaw added: “This year, Funding for Lending will keep many mortgage rates low, but not all borrowers are benefiting. In many parts of the country reduced equity is limiting the number of owners able to move or remortgage onto the cheaper rates on offer. It wouldn’t be only first time buyers who would gain from a greater availability of higher LTV mortgages – if this happens in 2013, it could be a great catalyst for the whole housing market.”