30 January 2014

Great time to be a First Time Buyer...

First Time Buyers are in the limelight again this week as lenders adjust criteria in order to assist.  The Saffron Building Society offers a 95% loan to value product which used to require the customer to have a twelve months rental history with a professional letting agent.  The lender has now removed this requirement entirely and the product is now available to those living with parents!  Even better news in that this product has no redemption penalties at any time, should the customer wish to change providers.
The ‘Bank of Mum & Dad’ continues to be a major player in a large number of enquiries received at AToM HQ.   Many options are available to first time buyers and parents, including guarantors, cross collateral charges (using parent’s property as additional security and grandparents in some cases!), gifted deposits or equity and more.  It is important to note that, in most cases, a guarantor must be a blood relative.

One such example causing quite a stir is provided by the Coventry Building Society.  Called the ‘step up’ mortgage, this allows parents/guardian or close relative to also add in their income when calculating the loan amount available to the applicants.  The lender then deducts the parent’s annual mortgage commitment and any other credit to reach a total loan available (this cannot exceed 7 x the First Time Buyers income).  The product requires a ten per cent deposit and all parties are named on the mortgage deed.  Other terms and conditions apply, but these show the innovative levels lenders are considering to assist people purchasing properties and, for this, they should be applauded. 
Let’s also not forget that the number of lenders now offering the Governments Help to Buy Mortgage Guarantee schemes has expanded.  Over the last few weeks, we have seen Aldermore, Woolwich (Barclays), Virgin Money and Santander all launch products to assist those with a 5% deposit.   In addition some lenders who are not on the Government Help to Buy register have also been offering good alternative product ranges, including remortgage options.

All in all, the number of options available to those with a small deposit or who are a first time buyer is on the increase and that can only be a good thing for the wider market!

23 January 2014

Is now the right time to Fix?

Activity remains high in the financial sector.   Halifax has reduced some two year deals by up to 0.2%.  Santander have launched two year tracker rates in the region of 1.79% (40% deposit) and Woolwich (Barclays) has launched products on the Governments Help to Buy Mortgage Guarantee scheme, available up to 95% loan to value.  We’ve also heard Richard Sharp, an external member of the Bank of England’s Financial Policy Committee, suggest that now is a good time to fix in to a long term deal.  Is he right?  Who knows!   There’s no denying that five year fixed rates are incredibly attractive and we have seen some rates start to creep up on these longer term deals.  However, it is personal preference.  If you wanted the certainty of knowing your mortgage payments won’t change for the next sixty months, then they are certainly worth a review!

The New Year has seen a large increase in requests for secured loans. A secured loan is a 2nd, or subsequent charge, designed for homeowners and which allows the equity in their property to be used as security.  Loans are usually between £3.5k and now up to £2.5m!  There are also no 'up-front' fees to find although costs are added to the advance.

We tend to find that many customers looking to remortgage to raise additional funds are already on an attractive rate with their lender. To move away could be costly and they could end up on a much higher interest rate.  Depending on the amount already lent as a mortgage, compared to the value of the property, most lenders will allow a secured loan to be added as additional borrowing, right up to 95% of the property value.

The secured loan is usually repaid over a shorter term than a mortgage, circa 3-7 years, but the term can be longer, although this will increase the amount of interest repaid. Rates vary depending on the customer’s circumstances and current level of borrowings.  Always seek advice.

16 January 2014

More offering Help to Buy as others change rates and criteria

Santander is the latest lender to launch products to assist those with a small deposit via the government backed Help to Buy Mortgage Guarantee scheme.  All products are arrangement fee free, have a free valuation and £250 cashback to help towards solicitors costs.  NatWest is also due to launch a suite of products via brokers in the coming days.  A positive start to the new year for those with small deposits!
Even lenders who are not part of the Help to Buy schemes are trying to compete.   As such, competition in the 5% deposit arena is the best it has been for some time, so do review all the options available to you.   

Other products have also seen rate movements in the last few days:   In the Buy to Let sector, Mortgage Trust (part of the Paragon group) has launched products with no early redemption penalties at all. Their rates have reduced to around the 4% mark and fees are also reasonably low at around £995.
GE Money Home Lending have launched a large loans proposition (£250k and above) for those who have had a historic financial issue in the past, including defaults, CCJs, etc.  With rates sub 3%, these are a good alternative for when the high street lender says no.  GE and some other specialist lenders are only accessible via certain mortgage brokers or distributors.   

This years Budget will be closely anticipated to see if the Chancellor will offer anything to incentivise and stimulate the market further.  Stamp duty is a key factor and would benefit from payment commencing at a higher level than current, say £250k and smaller increases as the price bands increase.  Is this too much to hope for?   

Finally, a recent report from TSB suggests that nearly 38% of house hunters are concerned they will be rejected for a mortgage.  Levels of income required topped the charts with poor credit rating being the second most common anxiety.  Always keep any eye on your credit reports.  These are your financial history to any prospective transaction and any decisions will take these in to account.  Most are free and relatively simple to understand, but most importantly will highlight any issues that may need rectifying.       

09 January 2014

House Prices up 1.4%. Next Steppers have good options

A Happy New Year to you all!  I hope you are holding up in the blustery and rather wet conditions!
UK House prices increased 1.4% in December according to the Nationwide House Price index.  This was some 8.4% higher than in December 2012.  The index also suggests that house prices are just 5% below the peak of 2007.  However I would think the impact of the horrendous weather recently will alter the figures somewhat in January/February.  Supply and demand is still playing a major factor with housing transactions being around 25% below 2007/8 levels, but new homes being built are around 45% lower (as at Q3, 2013).

The hope for 2014 rests a lot on the opportunities and offerings that are available to First Time Buyers.  We’re seeing a number of lenders offer mortgages to those with a 5 or 10% deposit.  I expect we will see more as the year unfolds.  Competition is good and should bring rates down at this borrowing level.
However, the ‘next step’ home movers also need attractive propositions in order to move.  There are only a handful of lenders who may consider 5% deposits to those already on the property ladder.  I would hope this offering will increase in order to help the supply chain with properties being available.  If rates remain high in this sector, there will be limited properties available to First Timers, and this will have a knock on effect.

All the while First Timers have limited options, the Buy to Let rental market will continue to flourish and this is one of the most competitive parts of the mortgage market currently.  Many options are available including innovative capital raising options to assist with the purchase of further properties.  Do be advised that market pundits are predicting that whilst house prices will rise, rental values may not, depending on the area.
Finally, the Funding for Lending scheme is coming to an end and this may possibly push up rates throughout the year.  Options are still incredibly attractive at the present time.  Long term fixed rates are sub 3% depending upon loan to value levels and for remortgages many lenders will pay the standard legal and valuation fees.   This, along with news that one in 11 people in Britain fear they won't be able to afford their mortgage or rent at the end of this month, according to research by homeless charity Shelter and YouGov, should mean that the one firm New Years Resolution is to keep on top of ALL finances.   It’s good to talk and most intermediaries will offer free mortgage advice, so don’t hang around and review your options today…