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Housing market moving sideways, lenders say

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The UK housing market appears to be 'moving sideways' mortgage lenders have said, as latest figures show a drop in borrowing.

The Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) has reported a sizeable fall in demand for loans during April.

Mortgages worth £18.4bn were advanced during the month, an 11% drop on the figure for March, it said.

However, monthly mortgage lending figures tend to be volatile, and activity often drops in the spring.

Allowing for such a seasonal factor, the CML said the amount borrowed last month was higher than the average over the past year, and was 4% higher than in April 2016.

The CML's senior economist, Mohammad Jamei, said: "The housing market appears to be, for want of a better phrase, moving sideways."

Nevertheless other factors are pointing to a slowdown in the housing market.

Earlier this week, HM Revenue and Customs reported a 22.5% drop in property transactions in April, compared to March.

One possible reason for the fall is that landlords might have brought forward purchases, to avoid the latest in a series of tax changes.

From 1 April, the amount of tax relief they could claim on mortgage payments was reduced.

The CML also said that the number of first-time buyers taking out mortgages had overtaken the number of people moving house for the first time since 1996.

Its research shows that while the number of home movers and landlords taking out mortgages is falling, the number of first-time buyers is rising.

"First-time buyers and remortgage customers appear to be buoying the market," said Mohammad Jamei.

"Home movers are having less luck. Their activity has been subdued for some time now and the low number of movers means fewer properties for sale. This supply and demand imbalance will continue to underpin house price values, even as the rate of price rises slows."

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