24 October 2009

The PM once told us we'd never had it so good....

Predictably, the major talking point in financial services is the FSA’s Mortgage Market Review. Some of the proposals include:

1) Removal of Self Certification mortgages:
Self Cert mortgages account for approximately 10% of the residential market. True, this offering has been abused by a few yet, in the main, Self Cert is a valuable product offering. Once abolished, existing customers may become trapped in their current mortgage. Possibly with a lender no longer operating meaning that they may be unable to refinance or move. At current low interest rates this may not be an issue. However, when rates increase quickly, a new mortgage may be difficult to realise and may result in customer arrears or, worse still, repossession due to lack of options. Those who are self employed and have difficulty proving income (which may come from a variety of sources) or recently established businesses will undoubtedly find it more difficult to obtain a mortgage, if at all, should these new proposals be approved.

2) Lenders to assume responsibility for a consumer’s ability to pay:
Why give credit to someone who can’t afford it? This should be happening now! I agree with this in principle but it needs to be widened to the Credit Card companies still sending out “pre-approved - sign here” forms on a daily basis. If I said yes to them all, I could be ‘quid’s in’ but could I afford the repayments…?

3) Requiring all mortgage advisers to be personally accountable to the FSA:
This one is interesting. We are already authorised and regulated by the FSA and this proposal wants us to be accountable for the mortgage you take. In effect this proposal removes the consumer’s responsibility for any transaction undertaken. Whatever happened to Caveat Emptor? Can I buy a lottery ticket and then sue the provider if I don’t win?

4) The regulation of Buy-to-Let and all Secured Lending:
Great idea and I 100 per cent agree, once authorisation and regulation of the current residential markets have been tried, tested and proven! If they were, would we be in this mess?

Obviously there are many more proposals, but I’ve so few column inches! The certainty with this review, if implemented, is that consumers will have less choice and pay more. Do you remember a PM telling us that we’d never had it so good?

16 October 2009

Buy and be quick! | Bye bye Self Cert?

It may have slipped your mind, but we’re only a couple of months away from…the stamp duty threshold increase! Oh and Christmas! This means that if you are looking to purchase a property priced between £125k & £175k, unless you complete the purchase before the end of the year, you could be paying out a further £1,250 to £1,750 in stamp duty costs. This is of course unless the property is in a ‘disadvantaged area’ in which case the Stamp Duty threshold decreases to £150k, rather than £125k. The clarification on a ‘disadvantaged area’ on the HM Revenue and Customs website is ‘residential, mixed use residential element’. Good, glad that clears that up then!
The Self Certification (no proof of income) market seems to have its days numbered as The Mortgage Works (specialist arm of the Nationwide) withdrew all its Self Cert products last week. This only leaves a few Lenders remaining in this arena and they will not want an increase in business from this sector. With speculation rising in the market that the FSA are looking to remove Self Cert altogether, Lenders will be currently reviewing the risks and their exposure in this category and I suspect more will withdraw in due course. It’s a shame as Self Cert is ideal for many customers with self employed income and, especially in the current climates, where people have two or more jobs with income not readily provable. On top of this, the removal of such a category could also trap existing borrowers into their current mortgage.
Finally, the Bank of England base rate is set to remain below 2% until 2014, according to the Centre for Economics and Business Research. The CEBR is predicting that interest rates will stay at 0.5% until at least 2011. If correct, this is great news for those on tracker rates. In fact, a few lenders have launched products for customers to start on a tracker rate and, if the Bank base rate was to increase, allows a switch to a fixed rate (for a minimal fee!) at any time during the tracker period (conditions apply!). Good to see some Lenders assisting with innovative products!

15 October 2009

Properties selling over the asking price!?

09/10/09 - Confidence in the market continues with the Abbey, Alliance & Leicester and Northern Rock reducing the interest rates on some fixed rate and tracker mortgages. Some of the tracker rates are sub 3% and well worth a look if you believe rates will not increased rapidly over the next couple of years. Other fixed rates, sub 4%, will suit those who require the comfort of knowing that their monthly mortgage costs are fixed for the period of the product. Whatever your requirement, it’s worth reviewing your circumstances and seeing what’s available in the market.

Lenders seem to be the focus of my articles more recently and in more of a positive stance! As we move in to the final quarter of 2009, and having had lengthy talks with many lenders over the last few weeks, I believe we will see more aggressive products during this period as lenders aim to finish the year on a high and with volume business. Watch this space!

As people remain content to stay on Lenders low standard variable rates, having finished fixed, discounted or tracker rates, it comes as no surprise that recent reports are suggesting mortgages for purchases are outstripping remortgage applications by 9-1! This shows that despite the current market climates, people are still moving properties and first time buyers, as I’ve mentioned before, are getting on to the property ladder.

In fact, more recently I’ve been informed of properties in the local surroundings not only having many more viewings than expected, but selling for way over the asking price! Superb news for sellers. However, although demand for properties is high, supply is still somewhat less and as a result, more people are bidding for the same property.

This is also confirmed by the recent Halifax house price index for September. The report suggests that the increased demand and lack of supply of properties had pushed up house prices by 1.6% for the month. The third consecutive monthly increase and fifth this year.

Future's still not bright....

02/10/09 - The Land Registry has confirmed this week that house prices decreased in August by 0.1%. Slightly unsurprising news as their data is from property sales some months previous. However it is also stark reality that despite signs we are on the way out of recession, the market recovery is going to be slow and enduring!

In fact, Creditaction figures for October report that the average Brit is just £155 away from a money meltdown. 12m Brits (25%) are currently struggling to cope with their monthly bills and 39% of people would be in trouble if they had to find just £50 extra each month. Essential bills now equate to £1,378 on average each month per person and £2,001 for families.

House purchase mortgage approval numbers for August were 81.4% higher than a year ago, despite data from the Bank of England confirming that 20% of all applications for mortgages for house purchase by major UK lenders were rejected!

The average current Mortgage Interest rate is reported to be 3.58%. The average house price in the UK in July 2009 for first time buyers was £143,454 which is an annual decrease of – 9.1%.

There were 11,400 cases of house possession (equivalent to one mortgage in 1,000) in the second quarter of 2009. According to the Council of Mortgage Lenders, this equates to 125 properties being repossessed every day or 1 property being repossessed every 11.5 minutes.

UK house prices will not reach their autumn 2007 peaks for at least another five years, according to the Ernst & Young ITEM Club. They also expect that house prices will fall again in the first half of 2010.

So, where is the good news? Well, AToM have experienced a 22% upturn in new enquiries over the last month. We have been able to secure products for more than 80% of applicants and this is a dramatic increase. We are experiencing more flexible underwriting from a number of mortgage lenders and the signs are that interest rates for fixed term products are reducing again. All the more reason to visit us to discuss your personal mortgage requirements.

Win £10k tomorrow! Golden goodbyes....

25/9/09 - For some months, a few of the smaller specialist lenders have been offering existing borrowers ‘golden goodbyes’ to assist them in remortgaging away to another Lender. This tends to be a cost effective way for the lender to lower their exposure and re-capitalise over exposed mortgage books, or so we are led to believe! In some instances, the incentive to the borrower to move away has been thousands of pounds. We are aware of some discounting by tens of thousands. The most recent, Rooftop mortgages are rumoured to be reducing mortgage debts by up to 15%! Quite simply, some lenders are happy to pay substantial amounts to say goodbye! Other lenders have waived early redemption charges on some loans to encourage borrowers to move their mortgage elsewhere. This fad seems to be on the increase and it is likely that more lucky borrowers will be receiving offers of a windfall in the near future, to move lenders. If your mortgage is a with a small specialist lender, who you know are no longer actively trading, a call to them could be very worthwhile and could decrease your mortgage amount, term and payments!

Whilst commenting on windfalls, don’t forget that tomorrow is AToM’s mortgage open day, in association with Mercury FM and Address Estate Agents! Do come along, bring the kids and have a free go at cracking the safe code. If you guess the correct code, £10,000 is yours! You can get free independent advice on mortgages available, especially to First Time Buyers, receive details of properties on sale in the local area and meet Chris Oxlade and the team from Mercury FM who will be playing tunes and creating ‘chaos’ outside the AToM office, in the Carfax, all day! Plus we have a colouring competition for the kids with the best of the day winning a £20 toy voucher!

Enquiries on the up!

18/9/09 - Over the last week or so, enquiries for new mortgages and remortgages have increased substantially. Funnily enough, we’re receiving a lot of enquiries from customers who have been drawn to some recent bank’s ‘headline grabbing’ rates. Yet when they’ve applied for these amazing products, the lender has been very picky and for no clear reason, declined to lend! Sign of the times! However, we’re more than happy to be of assistance! When choosing who to speak to about your mortgage, ensure that the company you are talking to, whether it be a mortgage broker, or an Estate Agents in house mortgage adviser, has access to the ‘whole of market’ (such as AToM) and not just a fixed panel of lenders. If they do not have access to the whole of market, they may not be offering you the best deal available to meet your requirements (whatever the incentive given to put your mortgage business via their company).
Getting a mortgage through the lenders in the current climates is still challenging. One day it’s easy to get a case through, the next, it’s a nightmare! So whatever you do, try to not give lenders any excuses to decline your application or refuse to lend to you. Try to pay bills on time, don’t miss payments where possible and especially not mortgage payments! Any missed (or sometimes late) payments will be registered on your credit file and this is normally used as the basis of a decision to lend to you. Even Insurance companies are now carrying out credit searches on people before issuing home or car insurances.
Finally, we’ve got together with Mercury FM and address Estate Agents to provide a free First Time Buyers Open day on Saturday 26th September at our premises in the Carfax, Horsham. We will be available to discuss all the mortgages available to First Time Buyers, including Shared Ownership and Guarantor Mortgages. Address will be providing a range of properties for sale, and you have the chance to win £10,000 by cracking the Mercury FM safe code! It’s well worth a visit, even if you’re not a first time buyer and looking for mortgage or property advice. You never know, a visit to AToM could put £10k in your pocket! We look forward to seeing you.