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UK builders complain about mortgage financing controls

TWO United Kingdom homebuilders complained about constraints on mortgage financing in Britain's battered housing market as they reported subdued sales yesterday. But a banking industry group said a modest easing of lending criteria was possible in coming months.

The Council of Mortgage Lenders said the average deposit of 25 percent for first-time buyers had not increased since February.

"We might expect to see a modest easing in these measures over the summer, as some higher loan-to-value products came on to the market in recent months and lenders reported that they intend to increase lending at higher loan-to-value ratios," the council said.

Barratt Developments Plc, Britain's second-biggest house builder by volume, complained that a lack of mortgage financing is preventing a rebound in the depressed housing market though it reported signs that demand was stabilizing.

Redrow Plc, another major homebuilder, made the same complaint about lenders as it reported that sales volume had fallen 46 percent and average prices declined 12 percent.

British industries have been complaining about tight credit as banks have concentrated on shoring up their balance sheets following a near-meltdown of the nation's financial sector.

The Council of Mortgage Lenders said lenders' demands for large deposits had forced an increasing number of first-time buyers to turn to parents for help.

"The Bank of Mom and Dad remains an apparently important source of help for young first-time buyers," said council economist Paul Samter. "Some mortgage products specifically reflect this fact, and again we may begin to see more products that echo this phenomenon."

In a trading update, Barratt said average selling prices of private homes declined 19 percent during the year, but said in the second half it had achieved "adequate sales volumes" at planned prices.

In the recent six months, "we have seen higher sales rates, lower cancellations and prices leveling," said Chief Executive Mark Clare.

"We are not however going to see a sustained improvement in trading conditions until the availability of mortgage finance, particularly in the higher loan-to-value segment, recovers."

While Redrow said it was reassured by signs of stability, it also voiced complaints about "chronic shortage of mortgage supply."


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