The number of people in mortgage arrears is at its lowest level for 24 years when records first began, says banking industry trade body UK Finance.
The unusually positive figures point to a recovering economy and a healthier housing market than expected, agents will be relieved to hear.
“This has been helped by low interest rates and lenders supporting borrowers through periods of temporary financial difficulty wherever possible,” says Jackie Bennett, Director of Mortgages at UK Finance (pictured).
UK Finance, which used to be called the Council of Mortgage Lenders, says there were 78,000 homeowners with mortgage in arrears of 2.5% or more of their outstanding balance during the first three months of the year, down 8% on last year and the lowest figure since 1994.
The number of repossessions stood at 1,100, unchanged compared to the first three months of last year.
Mortgage arrears among landlords are also reducing, down by 6% over the same period to 4,500 landlord, using the same measure, although some 1,100 landlords have arrears of more than 10%.
But UK Finance has said these positive figures could soon go into reverse following the government’s recent decision to stop paying the interest on home loans of people who lose their jobs and apply for financial support via the benefits system. Instead of a benefit, the government will instead offer government-backed loans.
“The recent change to Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI) from a benefit to a loan, as well as potential pressure on households from a future base rate rise, risk causing a reversal of this trend as the year goes on,” says Jackie.
“Customers should not hesitate to contact their lender if they anticipate any payment problems and want to discuss what options are available. Repossession is always a last resort.”