The rate of growth in the housing market has been slowing in the last few months, but as we move into 2015 we’ve seen a good level of activity already and expect to see the market grow at between 3% and 5% this year.
As one of the largest providers in the market, Halifax offers products in most sectors, and as such we are attuned to micro-trends within the market as they occur and develop. We can see which areas are growing and which are slowing and react accordingly. For example, last year we saw the positive impact the various measures designed to help first-time buyers were having and at year end there had been a really positive 22% year-on-year increase.
By monitoring these trends as they are happening we can tailor our offering to meet demand. It also means we sometimes have to take actions from time to time which help us to manage this. A recent example was the temporary lending cap in Help to Buy and our shared ownership/shared equity cap between August and November. As a group we constantly review the lending portfolio from a number of aspects including LTV, schemes, etc and look to balance the shape of our business.
Looking forward, we’re seeing continued strong interest from first-time buyers and also in buy to let. Underpinning the market are solid fundamentals; we’ve got a growing economy, rising employment, strengthening real incomes and extremely competitive mortgage rates. And the news that inflation as measured on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) has fallen to a 12-year low of 1% in November to 0.5% in December has implications for how soon the Bank of England will raise the Base Rate.
However, it’s widely acknowledged that markets don’t like uncertainty and the mortgage market is no exception. In a General Election year we can be sure that there will be plenty of uncertainty in the coming months, as the main parties unveil their manifestos. Housing and mortgages are likely to be one of the main areas of debate and each will be keen to set out a blueprint as to how they intend to support.
In the meantime, we will remain committed to the intermediary market, and seek to provide the tools for brokers to support their clients. Quality of advice is a key strength and differentiator for advisers, and to help strengthen and grow the mortgage market we need to continuously evolve its service offering to achieve our own ambitions in 2015.