26 October 2012

Low rates, high fees?

The old saying goes ‘don’t believe everything you read’ (apart from this column of course!).  There’s a lot of very good marketing and PR taking place in the mortgage market as lenders try to increase business volumes and attract new customers in the last quarter of the year.  But are things as the headline suggests?

Even Watchdog touched on the promotion of certain products from lenders offering low rates but with the relevant lender arrangement fees ‘soaring by up to 70%’!

As I keep saying, a mortgage is the biggest debt you are likely to ever take on and you need to do your homework, check the fees and do your sums! 

That’s the benefit of using a professional mortgage brokerage that will look at the overall cost to you over a period of time, not just the promotional rate from day one.  If it’s a 5 year fixed rate deal, they will look at all the rates available and recommend according to the most cost efficient over the five years. It is crucial to take into account the lenders upfront fees, arrangement fees, booking fees, reversion rates (the rate you will be allocated after the 5 year ends), and any costs in changing your mortgage thereafter.   And, of course, ensure that you use an advisor that can access thousands of mortgages available, at the same time, to cost compare and save you traipsing around all the banks and building societies to see their individual offerings.

Watchdog also suggested that the average person changes their mortgage once every seven years!?  That was a shock to me.  Again, a reputable mortgage brokerage would seek to review mortgages a lot quicker than this.  Why would you stay on the lenders variable rate, after the promotional rate had ended, if there was a more cost effective rate available with another lender saving you money?  Always think of number one and show no loyalty.  You can be certain that lenders will not remain loyal to you when it comes to raising rates as we have witnessed with a number of recent increases in Standard Variable Rates.  Seek advice and save money!

19 October 2012

The valuation is for the lender, not you!

Some weeks there is just too much news to take in and it can be difficult to assimilate and report on. Then there are quiet weeks where nothing much seems to happen.  This week has been the latter and the mortgage market has been quieter than normal.  So, what to discuss?

Well, it all went Wonga at Newcastle FC this week as the lender has agreed terms to take over the clubs shirt sponsorship.  Current sponsor, Virgin, indicated that they were sad to be losing the sponsorship deal previously negotiated by Northern Rock, the bank they recently acquired and whose name they are now phasing out totally.  

The Bank of England Base rate was retained at 0.50% for another month, but watch this space. There are a number of highly rated financial gurus predicting a cut in November.  Will it happen?  No one really knows but the momentum is gathering and we will see before too long.  If there is a reduction then it may not be for long and any resulting decreases in lenders tracker, discounted or fixed rates should be snapped up quickly.  Don’t miss any opportunities to save yourself money!  

On a separate subject, valuations on properties to be mortgaged come in various guises. Every mortgage lender will require a valuation on the property although, in some cases, they will not actually visit. This is because they can often access detailed information electronically.  Of course, this can prompt a borrower, who has paid a fee, to question the reasonableness of this method. In fairness to the lenders, it is a tried and tested system and rarely proves incorrect.  They have expenses regardless of the visit and this system does have the effect of keeping prices down.  Remember that this, fairly basic valuation is for the lender, at your cost, and should not be relied upon as a guarantee that the property is sound and fit for purpose.  Seek a more detailed survey if you have any doubts.

12 October 2012

Interest Only takes another blow

Over the last few months I’ve mentioned Interest Only quite a bit.  Interest Only is one option to pay your mortgage, but it does exactly as it says, you only pay the interest on the loan.  So at the end of the term, say 25 years, you still owe exactly what you started with.   Normally a savings plan is also set up to build funds over time to match the mortgage amount at the end of the term.
This might be right for certain individuals who have careers that pay out a lump sum after a term, or for someone who gets many bonuses.  But unfortunately, that will no longer be a mortgage option you can get through Nationwide.  They have pulled out of offering Interest Only across their entire range of products.  The country’s biggest Building Society has said that it has taken the decision to remove this option as they were only processing 3% on this type of product.   In the scheme of things, very small and what happened to customer choice? 

The mortgage market is awaiting the imminent final release of the FSAs Mortgage Market Review (MMR) which highlights areas due for change and implementation of stricter rules across the market.  Interest Only was mentioned in the consultation stages, but it does appear that an over-reaction has occurred across the market place with many lenders restricting the amount that could be borrowed on Interest Only and Nationwide’s move could/will lead to others following suit and removing the option entirely.  No one wants to be the last man standing!
There’s no denying that this product has sadly been abused by some across the country in order to keep customers costs down and no suitable repayment vehicle being set up.  However, not all should be tarred with the same brush.  Many customers have reasonably performing endowments and investment returns that will repay any Interest Only mortgages and cause no risk at all, mainly thanks to the advice, recommendation and the brokers ‘knowing their customer’.  

In addition, lenders are consistently writing to all customers on Interest Only to ensure that a suitable repayment plan is in place and those who are no nearer to the end of their term should have sorted alternative arrangements.  Are you one of them?  Act now.
Without doubt this move has sent shockwaves through the industry and if others do follow suit, many customers could simply become mortgage prisoners with nowhere to go.

05 October 2012

Positive activity in the mortgage market

Only a few days into the final quarter of the year and we’re already seeing lenders lowing rates to attract new business.  Woolwich have cut some rates by up to 0.2% and Abbey for Intermediaries have reduced various fixed rates across the range, both following numerous lender changes last week.  Accord Mortgages have also launched eight products aimed at First Time Buyers with a 10% deposit.  Rates are reasonable and some offer free valuations and £250 cash back.  All in all, it seems there is an appetite to lend in the last quarter (to hit bonus targets?!) and this is great news for the end consumer.

Second charge lenders are also in the midst of a price war.  Many have reduced rates, one or two new lenders have entered the market and another has increased their maximum loan size up to £200,000.   Many customers are making use of a second charge, rather than a full remortgage, as their existing first charge mortgage is on a very good rate and it may not prove cost effective to remortgage the whole amount.  Make sure you review all options available to you.
House prices have fallen 0.4% in September, according to the Nationwide House Price index.  The average house price now stands at £164k.  Nationwide go on to suggest that overall house prices should remain “relatively flat” or decline only modestly over the next 12 months.

With a recent Panorama programme highlighting the use of Payday loans around the country, I need to reiterate that these are classed as an ‘adverse entity’ with most lenders (not that some would admit it!).   In short, these lenders will charge a premium interest rate for a mortgage, compared to a high street lender.   However, even these lenders (those who accept customers with historic CCJs, defaults, or missed mortgage payments registered against them) MAY NOT accept someone who has taken out a payday loan.   So, although these may be right for a customer in certain circumstances, they will most definitely limit the number of lenders available to you when you come to apply for or change mortgages.  Seek advice.