Mortgage payments for qualifying borrowers are more affordable than at any time in the past 15 years, a report has suggested.

The Halifax says new homeowners need just over a quarter of take-home pay to cover loans, the lowest proportion of their disposable earnings since 1997.

It said the “key factor” of continuing low interest rates, which currently stand at 0.5%, would help keep house prices steady for the rest of 2012.

Overall, it said mortgage payments as a proportion of income had dropped by nearly a half since the market’s peak of 48% in autumn 2007.

It said affordability had improved in every UK nation or region since 2007.

The news of improving affordability for new borrowers comes at a time when those trying to get a mortgage for the first time are finding it tougher, as lenders tighten their criteria due to the weak economy.

Recent findings from the British Bankers’ Association revealed a fall in mortgage approvals to a 15-year low in June.

And several of the UK’s biggest lenders, including the Halifax, have recently raised their standard variable rates (SVR), affecting more than a million home owners.

Lenders have blamed the move on the rising cost of funding mortgages.

Borrowers usually switch to an SVR default rate once their initial fix or tracker deal period finishes.

Experts say those to benefit from recent increased competition among lenders has mainly been borrowers with the big deposits.

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