Huge rise in home repossessions last year

Despite low interest rates, which make it easier for people to pay mortgages, many people find their homes repossessed when they are unable to pay their mortgage
Despite low interest rates, which make it easier for people to pay mortgages, many people find their homes repossessed when they are unable to pay their mortgage
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The number of homes being repossessed rose by nearly a fifth last year, while the housing market in Yorkshire has stayed flat compared to the rest of the UK.

A total of 1,330 homeowner mortgaged properties were taken into possession in the fourth quarter of 2019 across the country, a rise of 17 per cent annually in the last three months of 2019, research by trade association UK Finance found.

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It said that although this represents a 17 per cent year-on-year increase, it is from a very low base, with 59 in every 100,000 homeowner mortgages ending up in repossessions in 2019.

Home repossessions remain well below levels seen between 2009 and 2014, UK Finance said.

It said the increase in possessions has been partly driven by a backlog of historic cases which are being processed in line with the latest regulatory requirements.

Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, said: "With interest rates so low, one would hope that the vast majority of borrowers are managing to pay their mortgages in full and on time each month.

He continued: "It is important for anyone finding themselves in this position to keep their lender in the loop and seek independent financial advice as early as possible."

Meanwhile, house prices locally struggled to get off to a good start in January, surveyors reported.

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Across the UK, both the number of sales being agreed and the supply of homes coming onto the market increased, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) said.

An overall net balance of 19 per cent of surveyors reported the number of new homes listed for sale had increased rather than decreased.

Mark J Hunter, partner at Grice and Hunter, based in South Yorkshire, said: “There is an increase in activity but the level of instructions still remains low. However, this is often the case in January and hopefully the more optimistic mood will tempt an increase in instructions as we move into the spring.”

Looking ahead, property professionals expect this refreshed optimism to continue - with sales expected to see an uplift across all UK regions in the next few months and for the year to come.

But Rics also cautioned that the improvement in housing availability follows a sustained period of falling supply, meaning average stock levels remain very low at an average of 43 properties per branch.

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Simon Rubinsohn, Rics chief economist, said: "The latest survey results point to a continued improvement in market sentiment over the month, building on a noticeable pick-up in the immediate aftermath of the General Election.

"The rise in new sales instructions coming onto the market is a noteworthy and much needed development, given the lack of fresh listings over the past few years had pushed stock levels to record lows.

"It remains to be seen how long this newfound market momentum is sustained for, and political uncertainty may resurface towards the end of the year.

"But, at this point in time, contributors are optimistic regarding the outlook for activity over the next 12 months."