Housing more affordable than a year ago, the Halifax says…

Housing is more affordable than a year ago, according to the UK’s biggest mortgage lender, but high mortgage rates mean it is still a stretch.

The Halifax, part of Lloyds Banking Group, said that a typical home in the UK cost 6.7 times average annual earnings of a full-time worker.

This is down from 7.3 times a year ago, which was a record level.

The lender said that house prices had fallen in the last year, while earnings had risen.

However, a typical home is still less affordable than it was near the start of the pandemic, and mortgages are taking up a bigger chunk of incomes.

The Halifax said that mortgage costs typically accounted for 35% of a homeowner’s income, up from 30% in a year and not far short of the level seen at the start of the financial crisis in 2007.

“The sharp rise seen in interest rates over the last year has meant the sums now look very different for both homebuyers and those looking to remortgage,” said Kim Kinnaird, mortgages director at the Halifax.

“Typical monthly mortgage payments are up by around a fifth, which is a big jump at any time, but particularly during a wider cost of living squeeze.”

The average rate on a two-year fixed mortgage deal is 6.75%, according to the financial information service Moneyfacts. The typical rate for a longer five-year deal is 6.23%.

Mortgage costs are much higher now than the ultra-low rates of less than 2% many homeowners enjoyed on their previous deal.

The cost of home loans was low for more than a decade, but climbed since the Bank of England began raising interest rates in late 2021.

The central bank has increased its benchmark rate 14 times in a row to reach its current level of 5.25% in order to tackle the above-target rate of inflation.

The Halifax said that housing had become more affordable in the last year because property prices had dropped, standing at £286,276 for a typical home. A year ago it was £293,586.

At the same time average earnings had grown by about 7%.

As a result, the cost of a home in terms of a multiple of earnings had fallen – making it more affordable. But for most people, monthly mortgage repayments are the biggest strain on their finances, especially if rates are higher than they had initially budgeted for.

That is the reality for many first-time buyers, despite affordability having improved. Under the Halifax’s calculations, the typical first time buyer faces house prices 5.4 times their average earnings. It was 5.8 times a year ago.

For all buyers, London has the least affordable homes, priced at 9.3 times average earnings, with mortgage repayments taking up 49% of earnings.

The North East of England, at 4.9 times average earnings and Scotland, at five times, have the most affordable homes, with Inverclyde – where homes cost 2.9 times average earnings – recorded as having the most affordable homes of any local authority area, the Halifax said.