The number of properties taken into possession last year declined by almost 25 per cent and has hit the lowest level in 35 years.
Data from the Council of Mortgage Lenders reveals that last year’s total of 7,700 cases of possession compared with 10,200 in 2015, and was the lowest number since 1982.
Over the course of 2016, the number of mortgages in arrears also fell by seven per cent.
However, although the data shows a clear underlying downward trend in the number of possessions, the CML cautions that care is needed in making annual comparisons. This is because the timing of some possessions last year may have been affected by a court case that caused lenders to review their processes.
The number of possession cases declined in the fourth quarter of 2016, as well as over the year as a whole. In the final three months, 1,800 homes were taken into possession, down from 1,900 in the preceding quarter and 2,200 in the final quarter of 2015.
At the end of last year, there were 94,100 mortgages with arrears of 2.5% or more of the outstanding balance, a slight increase on the total of 93,300 at the end of the third quarter. But that compared to a total of 101,700 at the end of 2015.
Across the market as a whole, there was significant improvement last year in the number of mortgages with more modest levels of arrears – up to five per cent of the outstanding balance.
There was, however, an increase over 2016 in the number of mortgages with arrears of more than 10 per cent of the balance, from 23,700 to 26,000. But this figure may also have been distorted by the timing of possession actions.
In the buy-to-let sector, the number of mortgages in arrears was unchanged in the fourth quarter of last year, at 5,000, but 11 per cent lower than at the end of 2015.
The number of owner-occupier mortgages in arrears edged upwards in the final quarter of last year, from 88,300 to 89,200, but was lower than the total at the end of the previous year.