01 March 2018

Can you pay today and also over the next five years?

In our heavily regulated mortgage marketplace, the lenders main area in deciding whether to lend, or not, is on your ability to pay the mortgage both today and also in the future.  It's difficult to detail when I have a limited word count, but in the main, lenders will stress test all mortgages against a possible rate rise and underwrite the applicants based on their ability to pay at the higher rates.  The regulators want lenders to ensure the customer can afford their mortgage for at least the next five years.  So, for example, a shorter term deal may be stress tested at a pay rate of 3% plus 3 percentage points higher than the prevailing rate at origination, so in this case 6% (even though bank base rate is 0.5%).  However, a five year (or longer) deal may be stress tested against the pay rate, which might only be 3% in current climates.  This can make quite a difference when it comes to calculating the affordable loan amount over the first five years of the loan, subject to the lenders terms and conditions.  Longer term fixed rates can also be good for the end consumer as they should get the loan they want, but also the monthly payments remain fixed for the next five or more years.

Whilst in the 'planning' frame of mind, and with so much talk about rates increasing, have you reviewed your current financial arrangements to ensure sure you are on the best deal available?  

Whether you require the security of fixing your payments for an amount of time, or whether you are a bit of a risk taker and might look at a short to a medium term tracker, right now, there are a number of attractive five year deals, and also some ten year deals currently available.  Potentially great value if you know your plans for the longer term and prefer to fix your monthly payments.

Other things to consider - Do you have a Will?  Statistics show that only one in three people currently have a will in place, with the remainder leaving the state to take over and determine how their assets and belongings are distributed, if they die.  Do you have Life Assurance, Mortgage Payment Protection, Accident Sickness and Unemployment cover, Critical Illness Cover, and more?  Any of these products might be beneficial to your personal circumstances or needs, especially if you have children, and with competition increasing, these types of products are not as expensive as you may think. As always, seek professional and open market advice.

01 February 2018

Can a 'Cryptocurrency' help you buy a house?

You’ve probably seen some of the hype around the rise of what’s called ‘Cryptocurrency’.  Specifically, relating to Bitcoin and other similar electronic currencies.  Currently they are not regulated and their price can fluctuate immensely day by day.  However, there have been a number of success stories and thus providing funds which could possibly be used as a deposit for a property.  Normally, lenders will want to see a build up of savings, or proof of where the funds have come from, inheritance etc.  With no formal category for this type of return, and no formal guidance from the regulators, some lenders may class it as gambling and not allow it as a form of deposit.  Despite some lenders confirming they will assist, some of the major high street names have already confirmed they will not accept deposits derived from cryptocurrency. With technology thriving as it is and some cryptocurrencies now worth hundreds of billions dollars worldwide, this could be deemed quite an ignorant view.  I suspect, as they become more widely known and used, only time will move this forward.

With this in mind, Technology plays a major part in our financial world.  Some lenders already do a lot of their functionality via a mobile app, including voice and face recognition.  Impressive hi-tech stuff indeed.

Most people will start their home buying process via the Rightmoves and Zooplas of the world, but some commentators are also predicting that the whole home buying process will soon become a digital revolution.  With more effective use of technology cutting down the mortgage process, some entities launching ‘robo advice’, and many lenders now processing everything online, I can see how that can happen.

However, at the same time, I can also see many customers just wanting to speak to someone face to face.  Especially those who have not grown up with technology!  Plus, as mortgage volumes are increasing, we will see more and more customers fall out of the 'technology only' bracket.  So, explore all options and if the technology becomes too confusing, pick up the phone!

18 January 2018

Are you ready for Open Banking?

Open banking seems to be the buzz phrase of the moment as the world of technology impacts the way our spending habits are analysed.  In short, you will soon be able to give permission to your Bank or Building Society, to release all details of your bank account transactions to any regulated business.  This can speed up the process of decision making when applying for loans, mortgages, etc, in comparison to just supplying your last three months paper bank statements, which is the current normal way of disclosing.  So no longer will your bank be the only one to know how much you spend on your weekly shop, utility bills and broadband!  Or of course, when you move into, and how often you use, your overdraft!  Permission can be withdrawn at any time.  Nine institutions were given a deadline of 13th January to be ready for launch, and five have been granted an additional six weeks to be ready.  Watch this space!

There have been a number of new products launches for the new year as lenders seek to gain a good start to 2018.   Many lenders have lowered rates and some have reviewed their criteria in order to bring in more business, possibly allowing customers that wouldn’t have been approved towards to the end of 2017.    Always review all possible options before giving up. 

Finally, the importance of mortgage advice has never been greater. It is an interesting fact that, according to a number of industry sources, over 70% of all mortgages are written through professional advisers. There are probably many reasons for this including long delays we are advised are happening with some lenders both in interview capacity and processing times.

The majority of professional mortgage advisers review the whole market for you and can identify the best lending options and then deal directly with the lenders central processing units, speeding up the process from application to offer.  That said, even in this area we know of at least one lender that is over ten days behind on post or electronic updates currently!  A good adviser will listen to your specific needs and timescales and ensure that they line you up with a lender who will match both.  They should also contact you again when your product is up for renewal and guide you through that process, building a long-term relationship with you. 

11 January 2018

Only 20% of homeowners take a homebuyer survey when purchasing a property.

Research from Legal & General has shown that only 20% of homeowners take out a home buying survey when purchasing a property.  This is despite home buyers on average spending £5,750 on unforeseen repairs when they move into their new home!

So, to recap on the options:
Valuations on properties to be mortgaged come in various guises.  Every mortgage lender will require a valuation on the property to ensure the property is suitable security for their purposes. This is a fairly basic valuation and is for the lender, paid for by the borrower, and it should not be relied upon as a guarantee that the property is sound and fit for purpose.  It only responds to the questions lenders ask relating to the property being suitable security for mortgage purposes.  They have no obligation to tell you what is in the report, or give you a copy! 

In some cases, they will not actually visit.  This is because they can often access detailed information electronically, normally called an Automated Valuation Model (AVM), where a mathematical system calculates the property’s value based on a number of comparable properties and other in-depth calculations.  

Therefore, you should always consider the benefit of an independent survey on the property you are purchasing to ensure that any and all defects are noted before signing contracts. There are two main types of survey available, aside from the standard lender mortgage valuation.

Homebuyer Report - a standard format set out by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). This will not focus on every aspect of the property as a building survey will (below), but will advise on urgent matters needing attention. It may advise if items (a leaky roof for example) might have an adverse effect on the value of the property, or if further investigations are required.

A Building Survey – an in-depth survey for all properties: listed buildings: buildings that have had extensive alterations, or of an unusual construction. The surveyor will examine all accessible parts of the property and advise on technical information: the condition relative to age: further special investigations required, and provide extensive information on major or minor defects.

Both will comment on whether the agreed asking price is reasonable, whether it reflects the condition of the property and should give you peace of mind whilst making the biggest purchase of your life!

Finally, I’m always looking for content ideas.  So, if you have any burning questions or items you would like to see, please don’t be shy to ask!  You can email me at dale@atomltd.co.uk or call me on the number above.  Have a great week!