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Connells Survey & Valuation reports that housing valuations in the United Kingdom (UK) have made great gains in the new year. The data indicate that valuations have not been so high since March 2007 and experts are crediting higher consumer confidence and more activity in the market, particularly from first-time homebuyers. Analysts say better loan-to-value ratios and interest on mortgages is helping to goose the market and is also improving the buy-to-let market. More people are also looking to refinance buy-to-let properties, which is giving banks a chance to diversify their portfolios and hedge riskier home-loan bets. For more on this continue reading the following article from Property Wire.

Valuations activity in the UK housing market has returned to levels not seen since March 2007, according to the latest Housing Market Activity Report by Connells Survey & Valuation.

The total number of residential valuations conducted in March showed growth of almost a quarter compared with the same month last year. This is the sixth consecutive month of annual growth and on a monthly basis, the number of valuations grew by 29%.

‘This year, confidence in the housing market could be returning cautiously. Certainly, if last month’s trend continues, the housing market might be looking at a more sustained take off than the usual spring bounce,’ said John Bagshaw, corporate services director of Connells Survey & Valuation.

First time buyer activity in March was also the strongest for six years, as 26% monthly growth brought the number of first time buyers to the highest level since March 2007. Of all sub sections of the market, valuations on behalf of new buyers showed the fastest year on year growth, at 33%. This represents the seventh successive month of annual growth for first time buyers.

‘Improvements are filtering through to more first timers too. Better competition at higher loan to value ratios is starting to make mortgages more affordable for first time buyers. The expectation that Bank rates will stay low for many years is also cementing low interest rates, but the biggest change is a calmer approach to the risk from smaller deposits,’ explained Bagshaw.

‘Much of that particular progress is down to the latest government intervention. The Budget was effectively a relaunch of NewBuy and FirstBuy, but there was real change too. Firstly, the timescale is now more realistic, with mortgage guarantees until 2017. And there’s the new £3.5 billion pound budget for equity loans. It will all take time to filter through, and the
longer term economic impact is far less certain. But already, things are moving in a much more positive direction,’ he added.

The number of home mover valuations has also increased by 28% since last month. This puts valuations on behalf of home movers up 16% from March last year, and makes March 2013 the strongest month for home moving activity since June 2007.

‘With prices starting to pick up, this could be feeding the optimism of some movers. Even if many regions are still seeing negative price growth, the national picture is looking more buoyant.  The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors announced the strongest quarter for house sales in three years. And the more recent picture in March looks even more positive,’ said Bagshaw.

In March, the number of remortgaging valuations rose by a quarter since the same point last year, after monthly growth also at 25%. This brings remortgaging activity to the highest level since March 2008, a five year high.

Buy to let was another robust area of the market, with the strongest rebound of any market sector from the quiet winter months. Buy to let valuations grew 45% on a monthly basis, bringing this activity to a level 19% above March 2012.

‘Lenders are increasingly incentivised to write more loans with smaller deposits, for the likes of first time buyers. But at the same time, they’re told to bolster their balance sheets with safer assets. Buy to let and remortgaging loans are the balancing weights that allow that progress,’ Bagshaw pointed out.

‘The buy to let industry is increasingly important for the housing market, while a fresh round of remortgaging will help many households lower their repayments, making the monthly financial squeeze a little easier,’ he added.

This article was republished with permission from Property Wire.