Changes announced to proposed HS2 route will link it with Northern Powerhouse Rail

Leeds City Skyline view

Changes to the proposed HS2 route have been announced to connect the line with Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR).

Plans published by the Department for Transport would allow for a potential new route between Manchester and Liverpool to also be used for services between London and Liverpool.

It involves creating two junctions at High Legh, Cheshire, linking the HS2 line with NPR, which is a proposed scheme to improve rail connections between some of the North’s largest cities.

This would allow NPR trains to use the HS2 line into Manchester, and HS2 trains to use the NPR line into Liverpool.

The plans are among 11 proposed “refinements” to the route for Phase 2b of HS2, which have been put to a 13-week public consultation.

This is the section running from Birmingham to Leeds via the East Midlands, and from Crewe to Manchester.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said the launch of the consultation “marks the first step towards fully integrating HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail”.

He went on: “NPR is being developed in close co-ordination with HS2, and is intended to make use of HS2 lines where that makes sense.

“This consultation includes proposals for infrastructure that would one day allow NPR trains to use the HS2 route and vice versa.”

The Confederation of British Industry’s regional director Damian Waters said: “The new consultation, announced today in Parliament, is a massive opportunity for the North and one we must grasp with both hands.

“Linking up HS2 and the Northern Powerhouse will unlock a series of connections knitting together Manchester, Liverpool and London to a high-quality transport network fit for the 21st century.”

Phase 1 of HS2 is due to run between London and Birmingham from 2026, while Phase 2b from Birmingham to Crewe is scheduled to launch in 2027.

HS2 trains will also serve destinations on conventional lines beyond the new high-speed network, including York, Newcastle, Liverpool, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Mortgage market was still active in May following a strong April

london investment property

A strong performance in April was followed by an equally active May for the mortgage market, which showed no signs of being affected by the slowdown facing the property sector.

There were 65,801 residential mortgages approved during May 2019, up 1.2% compared to the same month in 2018, according to the data from the latest Mortgage Monitor from chartered surveyors e.surv.

This growth comes at a time when activity in the property market has tailed off in many areas, with many local markets showing little signs of growth and it is existing home owners who have driven the mortgage market forward so far in 2019.

The report says that this is because mortgage lenders have continued to offer competitive deals, despite many having to contend with higher funding costs. May’s lending total did drop back slightly from last month’s figure, falling by 0.7% month on month.

The proportion of loans given to first time buyers and others with small deposits also declined when compared to April’ with a fall of 0.7%. However, this figure is still well ahead of the 26% recorded in March and demonstrates the strong performance of the first time buyer market, even when others are holding off on making purchases.

‘While few people are moving when they don’t have to, first time buyers are still desperate to get onto the ladder. Existing home owners, they are being tempted into the market by near record low interest rates. Those looking to switch could save hundreds of pounds a month by moving to a cheaper deal from a rival lender,’ said Richard Sexton, director at e.surv.

The proportion of mortgage approvals to borrowers with a small deposit dropped back slightly in May. Large deposit borrowers felt the benefit somewhat, but it was the mid-market which saw the greatest increase in activity. Over the course of the month, 27.7% of all loans went to smaller deposit borrowers, down compared to last month.

Meanwhile the number of loans to their larger deposit counterparts grew modestly from 24.3% to 24.5%. This meant it was mid-market borrowers who increased their share of the market most substantially, growing from 47.2% to 47.8% month on month. This returns activity to the exact level recorded in March. On an absolute basis, the number of small deposit borrowers dropped from 18,748 to 18,227.

‘The strength of the remortgage market means that many mid-market borrowers, who often benefit most from switching, are flocking to lenders in search of a cheaper deal, supported by advice from mortgage professionals,’ Sexton pointed out.

Yorkshire had the most favourable market conditions for small deposit borrowers in May and has held its place at the top of the chart throughout 2019 so far. In Yorkshire 34.9% of all loans went to this part of the market, higher than all rival regions. In the North West, the nearest challenger, this figure was 33.7%. The only other region to record over 30% was the Midlands, which registered a total of 31.3% this month.

At the other end of the scale, London was once again the most difficult market for these borrowers, with just 17.5% of loans in the capital made to these customers. London was once again dominated by those with large amounts of equity, with 32.8% of all loans going to them. This is ahead of South East, which recorded 27.9%, and Eastern England, which was 25.9%. By contrast, the proportion of large deposit borrowers in Yorkshire was 19.1% and in the North West 19.3%

‘Few people are likely to move to the other end of the country purely in search of a cheap house, but those in, or close to Yorkshire stand a much better chance of getting onto the property ladder with a small deposit,’ Sexton said.

‘The North West and the Midlands have also proven strong places to get onto the ladder for the first time, with 30% of all loans going to this part of the market. Once again it is those looking to make a purchase in London and the South East that will need to have the most cash as a deposit,’ he added.

(c) Property Wire, June 2019

PwC opens its new office in Bradford

Bradford is growing quick although prices are still quite low.

Pricewaterhouse Coopers has opened its new 9,000 sq ft office in Godwin Street, Bradford, staffed by more than 80 recruits from the local area.

Last night saw the official opening of PwC’s new Bradford Assurance Centre with the potential to increase staffing to 225 by creating further job opportunities in the city over the next few years.

Over 120 guests attended the event at the centre with representatives from Bradford Council, Leeds City Region LEP, West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Bradford Enterprise Partnership, all of whom were intergral to making PwC’s move to the city possible.

Also present was Bradford South MP Judith Cummins who made an opening address.

The professional services firm says the centre will help it “continue to provide quality and exceptional client service in changing times, standardising work in key areas of their engagements to be able to use technology effectively through automation”.

It says the new Assurance Centre will help develop skills and boost employability irrespective of background.

Will Richardson, PwC’s Leeds Office Senior Partner, said: “I was delighted to welcome so many guests to the official opening of our new Bradford centre, many of whom played a vital part in making our move to Bradford happen.

“Our new PwC Assurance Centre is one of our key priorities in delivering a best in class proposition as one of the world’s leading professional services firms. Not only will it offer our people the opportunity to work more flexibly and help reduce the travel required, they will also gain great experience working with a breadth of nationally based clients from SMEs to large corporations.

“Bradford is one of the largest cities in the UK, and the youngest city, offering a large and talented workforce that has so much to offer not just Northern Powerhouse growth but the UK’s economic growth too. Helping to support inclusive growth by investing in Bradford drives right to the heart of our PwC Purpose and Social Mobility agenda.”

Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, Leader of Bradford Council and chair of West Yorkshire Combined Authority, said: “It’s great news that such a prestigious brand has chosen to come to Bradford for the first time. It’s also great news for the Leeds City Region that PwC is expanding its presence in our part of the world, creating skilled jobs and opportunities for local people.

“PwC want to attract the talents of the future and it’s brilliant that they acknowledge that Bradford, as the UK’s youngest city, is the place to do that. We look forward to working with them over the coming months and years.”

Kersten England, Chief Executive of Bradford Council and Lead Chief Executive for inward investment for Leeds City Region, said: “PwC’s decision to build a presence in Bradford is a further vote of confidence in the dynamism of the sector and talent pool in the city.

“With a strong education sector, great transport links to London and the rest of the North, and a growing international reputation for financial and professional services innovation, it’s no wonder that Leeds City Region is the most significant regional financial and professional services centre in the country. We look forward to working with PwC to make sure their new office is a success both for the firm and for the city.”

The day before the launch event the Assurance Centre also received a visit from Justine Greening MP, who founded a cross party campaign to improve social mobility in the UK. She met and talked to PwC members of staff on what it meant to be able to work for PwC in Bradford.

(c) Telegraph and Argus, May 2019

First-time buyers benefit as LTV rates fall

Manchester town hall

First-time buyers will welcome the news that two-year fixed rate mortgage rates have fallen over the past five years, with the 90% and 95% loan-to-value (LTV) tiers reducing consistently month-on-month since August 2018, research carried out by Moneyfacts.co.uk shows.

Analysis by Moneyfacts.co.uk reveals that while rates have reduced across all LTVs, higher LTV tiers had the most significant reductions, with the average two-year fixed rate at 95% LTV decreasing by 2.08% to 3.25% in the past five years. Over the same period however, the maximum 60% LTV tier has fallen by around half that figure (1.06%) from 2.96% to 1.90%. This is good news for first-time buyers, who typically have a deposit of between 5% and 10%, as it means that they are able to take their first steps onto the housing ladder with more favourable rates.

In addition to this, provider competition within the higher LTV tiers has also increased notably since May 2014, with the number of products available in the 90% LTV tier increasing by 144 to 288 products and 95% LTV by 73 to 147.

Darren Cook, financial expert at Moneyfacts.co.uk, said:

“First-time buyers or those borrowers seeking higher LTVs seem to have benefited the most as providers appear to be competing for this business by driving interest rates down. In fact, the average two-year fixed rate at 95% loan-to-value has fallen by 2.08% to 3.25% over the past five years and the disparity between the average two-year fixed rate at 90% and 95% LTV has nearly halved to 0.60%. As a result, although those first-time buyers able to raise at least a 10% deposit – where the average rate now stands at 2.65% – will still ultimately benefit compared to borrowers with a 5% deposit, they will benefit less significantly than they would have done five years ago.

“The trajectory of LTV risk curve seen five years ago is possibly what one would expect considering the incline in interest rates as the probability of default escalates up the LTV tiers. However, today’s curve trajectory indicates that downward pressure on interest rates across most of the LTV tiers has caused this LTV risk curve to flatten, as providers seem to have sacrificed some risk by lowering rates at the higher LTV tiers in order to maintain a competitive edge.

“Indeed, as interest rate margins have narrowed, the rate spread between the 70% and 90% LTV tiers has reduced from 0.46% five years ago to 0.11% today, while the difference in average rate between the low-risk 60% and 70% LTV tiers has reduced from 0.88% to 0.64% over the same period.

“With the current intense competition and squeezed margins, in particular at the riskier high LTV tiers, it is unlikely that providers will be able to decrease interest rates much further. With the LTV risk curve appearing flatter, it is important that borrowers look at all appropriate LTV tiers to see if they are getting the best product to suit their needs.”

(c) Moneyfacts.co.uk, May 2019

Lending to first time buyers up in first quarter of 2019

There was an increases in new buyer home lending in regional parts of the UK in the first quarter of 2019, the latest mortgage industry figures show, with Scotland stronger than Wales.

In Scotland there were 6,760 new first time buyer mortgages completed in Scotland, up 4.5% compared to the same quarter in 2018. Additionally, there were 6,620 new home mover mortgages, up 6.6%, according to the figures from UK Finance.

The data also shows that there were 9,670 new home owner remortgages completed in Scotland, up 18.8%, the highest volume of remortgaging in Scotland in a decade, when 9,850 remortgages were completed in the third quarter of 2009.

There were 3,450 new first time buyer mortgages completed in Wales, a rise of 1.2% and 3,140 new home mover mortgages, a rise of 1%. There were 4,810 new home owner remortgages, a fall of 0.2% and the UK Finance report points out that this follows a period of strong growth in remortgaging in Wales during 2018.

In Northern Ireland there were 2,440 new first time buyer mortgages completed, up 11.4% and 1,490 new home mover mortgages, a fall of 0.7%. There were 2,820 new home owner remortgages completed, up 24.8% to the highest level of remortgaging in Northern Ireland since the first quarter of 2009, when 3,280 remortgages were completed.

There were 9,410 new first time buyer mortgages completed in London, a rise of 1.6%, and 5,980 new home mover mortgages, down 3.7% while there were 14,170 new home owner remortgages, a fall of 1.3%.

John Phillips, national operations director of Just Mortgages and Spicerhaart, pointed out that despite a few little shifts, first time buyers and remortgages are dominating the market while home movers in Scotland are more confident than those in London, probably because they are closer to the political and economic uncertainty.

John Phillips, national operations director, Just Mortgages and Spicerhaart said: “The regional lending trends data out today from UK Finance reveal that first time buyer mortgages are up across the UK for quarter one, with the biggest hike in Northern Ireland, which saw a rise of 11.4 per cent.

2While there are a couple of little anomalies, these figures are pretty much what we have been seeing for the past 18 months or so with first time buyers holding up the purchase market, and the wider market being remortgage activity,’ he said.

‘There is a bit more action in terms of home movers in Scotland, and I think this is because there is a bit of a north south divide at the moment with people in the North of England and Scotland feeling less close to the political and economic uncertainty being felt in London, but overall, the picture is what I’d expect to see, and until all this uncertainty is over, I don’t think this is going to change anytime soon,’ he added.

(c) Property Wire, May 2019

UK annual house price growth hits two-year high

Liverpool Skyline

British annual house price growth picked up more than expected last month to hit its highest in over two years, mortgage lender Halifax said on Wednesday, contrasting with other signs of a muted housing market.

House prices in the three months to April stood 5.0 percent higher than a year ago, the strongest growth since February 2017 and a marked increase from the 2.6 percent rise recorded for the three months to March.

The reading came in above all forecasts in a Reuters poll of economists that had pointed to an annual increase of 4.5 percent in the three months to April.

“The surge in house prices reported by Halifax cannot be reconciled with any other evidence from the housing market. Less volatile measures paint a far more subdued picture,” said Samuel Tombs, economist at Pantheon Economics.

Halifax said the year-on-year gains reflected unusually weak prices in April 2018, as well as more sales of more expensive newly built homes and a bigger proportion of sales coming from London, where house prices are above average.

Bank of England data last week showed British lenders approved the fewest mortgages in March since December 2017, and that consumer borrowing slowed sharply in the run-up to the original Brexit deadline of March 29.

While house prices have been rising across the country as a whole, prices in London have fallen according to various indicators, hit by unaffordable prices for many buyers, tax changes affecting the buy-to-let market and Brexit uncertainty which has weighed heavily on the capital.

Halifax said house prices in April alone rose 1.1 percent, again stronger than all forecasts in the Reuters poll that had pointed to an increase of just 0.1 percent. However, this represented only a partial recovery from March’s 1.3 percent drop.

(c) Reuters, May 2019