There were just 39,900 loans for house purchase advanced in December – down 4% from November – the Council of Mortgage Lenders has confirmed.
However, the year-on-year drop was savage, down 37% from December 2009, although the 2009 figures were distorted by the number of people rushing to complete purchases ahead of a Stamp Duty holiday deadline.
First-time buyer numbers in December dropped by 3% to 14,500 and loans to people moving home fell 4% to 25,400.
Remortgage loans also dropped, down by 16% in December, to 23,400.
In the whole of last year, there were 529,300 house purchase loans, and 313,200 remortgages.
The number of purchase loans was slightly up on 2009’s overall figure of 511,700, and on 2008’s figure of 513,100.
The fall in remortgages has been marked: last year’s total of 313,200 compares with 865,800 in 2008.
However, the single most worrying statistic relates to first-time buyers. The figure of 14,500 first-time buyer loans in December 2010 is a 3% drop on the previous month – but a huge 42% drop on December 2009. Again, the rush to beat the Stamp Duty holiday was significant, but it shows how badly first-time buyers feel they need such incentives to get on the housing ladder.
Overall last year, there were 194,600 first-time buyer loans, a drop of 1% from 2009. By December last year, just 6% of first-time buyer loans were interest-only, compared with 30% pre-2007.
The number-crunching will no doubt be discussed at this week’s summit on first-time buyers, convened by housing minister Grant Shapps.