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LONDON (Reuters) - Britons' mortgage repayments exceeded new borrowing during the third quarter of 2012, but by the smallest margin since early 2010, figures from the Bank of England showed on Monday.
The net injection of housing equity totalled 8.043 billion pounds in the third quarter, equivalent to 2.9 percent of post-tax income - down from 9.439 billion pounds in the second quarter and the lowest figure since Q1 2010.
Before the financial crisis, rapidly rising house prices enabled some British households to boost their spending by remortgaging their properties and withdrawing some of their increased housing wealth.
Since the financial crisis, which caused British house prices to fall by around a fifth, this has ceased to be an option.
"The further substantial net injection of housing equity in the third quarter of 2012 suggests that there is an ongoing strong desire ... of many people to improve their personal financial balance sheets given high debt levels and still serious concerns over the economic situation," said Howard Archer, chief UK economist at IHS Global Insight.
However, the BoE has said net injections of housing equity mostly reflect a lower number of house purchases and new mortgages, rather than existing home-owners paying back their mortgages faster.
In August, the BoE opened its Funding for Lending Scheme, which aims to boost mortgage and business lending by offering banks and building societies cheap finance.
Mortgage approvals in Britain were 1.5 percent lower on the year in November, numbering 33,634, seasonally adjusted data from the British Bankers' Association showed last week.
A Reuters poll this month showed British homeowners will have to wait a long time before they recoup losses from the last few years on their properties as a weak economy and high unemployment keeps demand in check. The median forecast was for UK house prices to rise 0.6 percent in 2013, having dropped by the same amount this year.
Reporting by David Milliken; editing by Stephen Nisbet