Leaving aside the fact that around 83% of stats are made up on the spot, there have been some interesting stats bandied around in the last couple of days that are worth looking at.
First of all the Q4 2008 housing equity withdrawal statistics issued by the Bank of England show that after mutating into a cash machine for a number of years, an Englishman’s home is once again his castle.
With the strict criteria and low loan to values being enforced by lenders, and falling house prices eroding equity, many borrowers are simply no longer able to raise money against their property. The few that can are heavily outweighed by the number of people consciously overpaying, as well as those simply making normal monthly payments on their repayment mortgages. People’s number one priority in these uncertain times is to put money into their homes, not to take it out.
This behaviour fits in with the zeitgeist of the era. Saving and paying down debt, as opposed to tapping your home for another exotic jaunt abroad, is now in vogue, and as dull as it may seem it is just what the doctor ordered.
A more serious point for the economy as a whole is that many small businesses are traditionally started with borrowing, and often the best security people have to do so is their home. Small businesses are the lifeblood of a healthy economy, and this lack of credit is therefore a further choke on the economy.
On a positive note, today we have seen not only a report that there has finally been a rise in the number of mortgage products available, full marks go to Abbey for some of their recent product releases, but Nationwide have reported that the average house price actually rose by £3,000 last month, from £147,000 in February to £150,000 in March.
This means that year-on-year prices are now down 15% rather than 17% and perhaps gives credence to the view that the bottom is approaching. I still maintain the bottom will have been passed in the next 6 months, and it is only fears over job security and availability of mortgage funding that is holding people back.
This, however frustrating it is, may be no bad thing. A wild bounce back is not necessarily a good thing, rather sensible, sustainable growth is what we should be after now.