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    New figures released by the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) show that gross mortgage lending in January 2012 was up 10% compared with the same month last year.

    There have been year-on-year increases in the amount of mortgage borrowing for the last 6 months consecutively, but the overall amount of activity has been low.

    CML chief economist Bob Pannell welcomed the signs of improvement in the housing and mortgage markets, but warned against getting carried away, “given the very low levels of activity we are starting from and the protracted and difficult economic rebalancing that the UK and other countries have embarked upon.”

    The upswing may also be, to some extent, the result of first-time buyers looking to get a foot on the property ladder before the end of the concession on stamp duty; the 1% stamp duty rate for first-time buyers moving into properties worth between £100,000 and £250,000 is due to be reintroduced on 24th March.

    Moving forward, the CML predicts that, if inflation continues to fall, this will result in a boost to the housing market, with individuals and families regaining some of their financial freedom.

    A majority of homeowners across the UK expect to see the value of their property decline over the course of the next 12 months, according to recent research.

    Figures compiled as part of the Building Society Association’s Property Price Tracker show that almost three-quarters of Britons believe values will fall in the coming year.

    Around one in four of those polled said they think the decline will wipe between five and ten per cent off the value of their property and for many this could mean debt management and money problems in months to come.

    The BSA’s director general Adrian Coles said: "It is clear the positive outlook that has characterised the property market for the last few years is now a thing of the past and people expect prices to fall over the next year."

    Moneyfacts reported last week that a two-year fixed-rate mortgage deal in the UK now carries an average interest level of over seven per cent.

    Chancellor Alistair Darling has called on mortgage lenders in the UK to ensure that their arrangement fees are fair to customers.

    Mr Darling has expressed concern that people looking to remortgage are having their money problems made worse as a result of being charged large sums for arrangement by their financial service provider.

    The Council of Mortgage Lenders has noted that the fees its members charge vary a great deal but the chancellor has warned the industry that he might turn the matter over to the Financial Services Authority.

    "I’m very concerned that people ought to be treated fairly, especially people coming off fixed rates and going on to different rates," he said.

    "Everybody accepts there are costs that have to be met when they change over, but I think we have to make sure people are treated fairly and are not taken advantage of."

    Moneyfacts reported recently that the typical interest level now being charged by British lenders on a two-year fixed-rate mortgage is over seven per cent.

    The remortgaging market in the UK is holding up despite the various pressures on the housing sector, according to the British Bankers’ Association (BBA).

    BBA members reported a poor performance in terms of home loan activity over the course of last month, with remortgaging proving to be the only area of the market offering cause for optimism.

    Indeed, while the total number of mortgage deals done in May were 56.8 per cent down on a year ago, remortgaging activity increased by 6.3 per cent on the same comparative basis.

    "Only remortgaging business is holding up, where people need or want to take advantage of deals with other lenders," said the BBA’s statistics director David Dooks.

    He went on to suggest that tightening lending criteria and the money problems being faced by consumers are principally to blame for the downturn in the property market.

    A report from Moneyfacts this week revealed that the typical two-year fixed-rate mortgage deal in the UK now has an interest rate of over seven per cent.

    Mortgage borrowers have seen the average interest level on a fixed-rate product continue to increase in recent weeks.

    According to a report from Moneyfacts, the typical two-year fixed-rate mortgage deal now on the market charges 7.02 per cent, while a five-year equivalent has an average rate of around 6.82 per cent.

    The figures reflect rises seen recently in the loan swap rates and the increased costs to lenders but they could cause added headaches to homeowners with debt problems.

    Indeed, Moneyfacts has suggested that many families will face a serious debt management struggle when they remortgage from one fixed-rate mortgage deal to another in the current climate.

    "These are continuingly worrying times for anyone coming to the end of their current mortgage deal," a statement from Moneyfacts read.

    Earlier this month, the research firm Defaqto reported that personal loans are becoming more expensive for British borrowers.

    The UK’s housing sector is heading for "serious grief", the Liberal Democrat economic spokesperson Vince Cable has claimed.

    Mr Cable is convinced that the ongoing housing sector slump will be worse than many analysts are currently anticipating and will be very difficult to alleviate.

    He has suggested that the government should oblige creditors to adhere to a strict code of conduct in order to avoid seeing large scale repossessions across the country.

    "I think the government is going to struggle with this combination of high inflation, low growth and potentially increased unemployment for several years," Mr Cable told myfinances.co.uk.

    Meanwhile, chancellor Alistair Darling has urged consumers not to dwell too much on the potential of the economy going into recession.

    According to the Council of Mortgage Lenders, its members handed out £6 billion less in home loans last month than was the case in May of last year as the housing sector slump goes on.

    The asking prices offered by Britons looking to sell their properties have been falling in recent weeks, according to the latest figures.

    Data corroborated by Rightmove has shown that with more and more households facing money problems, the typical price at which sellers are putting their property up for sale has fallen 1.2 per cent during June.

    In May, the figure rose by the same margin and the average asking price is currently believed to by just under £240,000, according to Rightmove’s assessment of statistics from Nationwide and Halifax.

    "New sellers are now taking some proactive steps to price more realistically from the outset to attract increasingly hard-pressed buyers," said Miles Shipside, commercial director of the property portal behind the recent research.

    According to Credit Action, the typical British household has a debt management burden worth close to £57,700, including their mortgage arrears.

    The UK’s housing sector keeps slowing as fewer and fewer people are approved for home loan deals, it has been revealed.

    According to the latest data from the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML), the loans handed out in May were worth a total of £25.5 billion, which is considerably less than the £31.5 billion lent during the same month in 2007.

    Many homeowners are finding themselves with a serious debt management headache but in general the performance of the remortgaging sector has been the biggest cause for optimism for the CML.

    A statement from the council read: "The remortgage market remains on track to meet our forecast for growth this year, demonstrating the resilience of the market despite recent bad news."

    However, when it comes to house purchase activity, the CML expects to see "very weak" markets over the coming months.

    Last week, the CML suggested that fixed-rate mortgage deals are becoming increasingly popular across the country as Britons aim to avoid money problems if the base rate of interest rises.

    The Bank of England’s monetary policy committee (MPC) has opted to maintain the base rate of interest at five per cent, it has been announced.

    A cut in the base rate might have offered some relief to the millions of people around the country who are struggling to deal with their debt management and money problems.

    Despite the ongoing slowdown in the economy, which has seen average house prices falling throughout the year and consumers having their finances steadily squeezed, the MPC did not feel a rate cut could be justified.

    According to Howard Archer from Global Insight, the committee’s hands were effectively tied by the fact that inflation has been on the increase and cutting the cost of borrowing could have exacerbated the problem.

    "The Bank of England really had little option but to leave interest rates unchanged at five per cent," he said.

    Earlier this week, a report from Gocompare.com suggested that around a quarter of British homeowners feel trapped in their own property because of money problems and the difficulty of securing a mortgage deal.

    Mortgage lenders in the UK need to change their current attitude and practices if the housing sector is to recover, it has been claimed.

    The online home moving service Moveme.com has suggested that lenders are being excessively cautious and leaving borrowers with debt problems little room for manoeuvre.

    According to the company, financial services firms ought to pass on interest rate cuts as they are introduced by the Bank of England in order to breathe life back in to the property market.

    "The continued, overly cautious approach now being employed by lenders is having a detrimental impact on the market," said Charles Warsdell, Moveme.com’s director.

    "It will be interesting to see how long lenders can hold out before their current stance brings about their own downfall," he added.

    In related news, the Council of Mortgage Lenders recently insisted that its members only initiate repossession proceedings as a last resort.

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