There have been signs for a while indicating the housing market has been picking up. The final month of 2013 certainly bore this out as the latest figures reveal more people had their mortgage applications reviewed that month than they had since the recession began back in 2007.

A total of 46,521 mortgage applications were approved in December, up from 45,394 the previous month. This represents an increase of more than 1100 mortgages month on month. More significantly it is also up by a massive 42% compared to the same month in 2012.

Help to Buy is helping

One of the main reasons why the increase has occurred is the Help to Buy scheme offered by the government. Lower deposits of 5% have also become easier to find, enabling more people to get onto the housing ladder for the first time.

More interesting statistics from the British Bankers’ Association

The total figure given by the British Bankers’ Association (BBA) for mortgage borrowing throughout 2013 was £110 billion. This was one fifth higher than was seen in 2012.

Clearly the second half of 2013 showed significant growth in the housing market. These figures have also led to more concerns about whether this could result in another housing boom and bubble – something unsustainable long term even though it looks encouraging in the short term.

Figures still way below the peak seen a few years ago

While some are concerned at the rising figures, they still have a long way to go before they reach the peak levels that occurred not long before the financial crash. In the last few months of 2006 the rate of mortgage approvals soared over 70,000 in a month. The current high figure is still nearly 25,000 lower than this, so while the market has improved it is a long way from being in the danger zone.

Indeed many experts, including property economist Matthew Pointon, as quoted by the Get Reading website, believe we are a long way from the unsustainable property market as seen prior to the recession.

We have reported previously on the new tighter mortgage rules that are set to come in within the next two or three months. These have been designed for the very purpose of preventing that occurrence from happening again.

The Bank of England is still not thought to be raising interest rates anytime soon. It uses a number of criteria when considering such rises, and while they are monitoring the situation we are likely to be able to enjoy historically low rates for some time yet.

As the first month of 2014 comes to a close, it will be interesting to see whether the New Year brings yet more mortgage approvals to top the encouraging closure of 2013. While some may be concerned that approvals are coming in too thick and fast, others realise they are well below their previous catastrophic peaks. This, perhaps, is the most important fact of all.

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