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COVID-19 Property Market Update 

Many existing and potential homeowners are wondering whether to move now or delay their plans until they have a clearer picture of how long the pandemic will last. 

Since the market reopened here in Scotland in June, people have flocked to estate agents to purchase a new home. Properties are going to closing date, achieving record offers overs and competition is fierce as pent up demand combined with government incentives and a re-evaluation of our priorities has resulted in a mini property boom. 

The recent tax break announcement created a flurry of interest from buyers and gave an immediate boost to the housing market – according to The Telegraph, the lockdown resulted in £27bn of lost sales and buyers and sellers have been making up for this ever since.

The prime rural market has benefitted the most as people search for more space and better value. Buyers appear to be prioritising larger properties with more outside space, and they have re-evaluated the importance of proximity to transport links, local amenities and the ability the work from home. 

According to Zoopla, agreed sales fell by 92% during lockdown. Buyer demand, which is measured by the number of property enquiries, has jumped to 46% above pre-lockdown levels with a significant rate of recovery.

The prime rural market has benefitted the most as people search for more space and better value. In July, asking prices reached a new high of £320,265 – a rise of £7,640 (Rightmove) and Zoopla has forecast price growth of between 2% and 3% by the end of the year. Here in Glasgow house prices were 2.3% higher in August compared to 2% in August 2019.

 What is the outlook?

 With few distressed sellers just now – which is usually what drives house prices down in a crisis – it appears that the property market is holding strong. This is due to job and payment retention schemes and the availability of mortgage holidays. In addition, the eviction ban is protecting tenants who can’t pay their rent. 

At its peak, there were 1.9 million homeowners that took a mortgage repayment break – a sixth of all mortgaged homeowners. However, lenders have reported that only a small number of these requested an extension. If these people were to become forced sellers at the end of their mortgage break, but this would still not top pre pandemic property transactions. In addition, Hansen Lu, of Capital Economics, said that when the mortgage break scheme ends, regulatory changes mean that lenders’ own internal forbearance procedures will be more generous than they were ten years ago, and the impact will be reduced.

What’s more, according to the Bank of England, mortgage approvals reached a 13-year high in August as the rush to buy homes continued. The number of mortgages approved hit their highest level since October 2007 with a total of 84,700 mortgages  approved in August, a 28% increase on the previous month’s total.

It’s a seller’s market, so the advice is to sell now and for buyers, there are still some exceptional mortgage deals available. Even with the strict guidelines surrounding house sales, people are still encouraged to go on house viewings especially as initially it can be done virtually as agents increasingly embrace technology. Although many buyers tried to negotiate discounts when the market reopened, agents instead are seeing competitive bidding. Estate Agency is still subjected to social distancing measures and a change in the way they conduct themselves with restrictions on viewings to one member of a household, a ban on open houses and vendors vacating the property during the measuring, photography and viewings. However, this doesn’t appear to have dampened appetite.

Talk to us at The Mortgage Hub on 01698 200050 if you would like to discuss your mortgage options and for general advice about the property market here in Scotland.

Should You Continue With Your House Purchase?

This week it was announced that the UK is officially in recession. So, what does this mean for you if you’re planning to move?

During a recession when finances are tight job security is in question, many are cautious about buying a new home. However, this is a very unusual time for everyone in the UK – the likes of which we have never seen before.

The property market came to a standstill in March and went off with a bang when it reopened on June 29th . It was feared that house prices would crash but to date, the opposite has happened. The recession is a result of a public health crisis and not a financial one, so the financial system isn’t at a standstill as it has previously been. The government has taken unprecedented steps to protect jobs and prop up the housing market. Estate Agents have reported a huge upsurge in interest in properties and new seller enquiries and property portals have reported incredible visitor stats since the start of July.

What’s more, in July it was announced that LBTT would be waived for all properties up to £250,000 until March 2021 to further incentivise those considering moving and the Help to Buy scheme has been extended. There has been restored confidence in the market and transaction figures have rebounded – with a particular rise in the purchase of first homes and newly built properties.

The concern surrounding buying a home during a recession is that house prices may fall after a property purchase leaving buyers in negative equity. There’s also a fear that the Furlough scheme has delayed the number of job losses and that when the scheme ends there will be a raft of redundancies.

One thing is for sure – house prices are steadily rising and mortgage companies are bringing back products. House prices fell in 2018 due to a very specific lack of funding in the mortgage market. This isn’t the case this time so we believe that property will still be one of the strongest investments you can make. At present, there is an imbalance between demand and supply which is putting upward pressure on prices at the moment, and as a result we have seen the price growth for UK homes rise to 2.7% in June, up from 2.4% in May. We see this trend continuing for the foreseeable future.

If you’re buying a new home, you may prefer to delay your  purchase and wait to see how the recession plays out but the danger is that if your job is secure and you have the funds and meet the lending criteria, now is a great time to secure an attractive mortgage rate.

If you are thinking buying, make sure you have the right advice and don’t miss out on the LBTT break and low mortgage rates. Talk to us to discuss your circumstances before making a decision as we may able to help you decide what’s best for you.

Life In Lockdown Has Dramatically Changed Buyers’ Priorities

It appears that nearly four months in lockdown has changed home buyers priorities with outside space, large kitchens and high-speed broadband taking priority over location and links to public transport.

According to a survey commissioned by UK housebuilder Redrow, over 25% of prospective buyers have changed their minds over what aspects of their new homes are most important to them – and are seeking outside space with larger terraces and gardens, spacious kitchens and energy efficiency.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the UK back in March, parents and those expecting children have been most likely to shift priorities. The survey found that 60% of respondents had access to private outdoor space, such as a garden, terrace area or balcony at the top of their property wish list – no doubt following months of home schooling and trying to keep children entertained. The importance of outside space during the lockdown with the great weather has made people reassess the importance of being able to access a garden or terrace.

Meanwhile, 40% of those surveyed were looking for a property with a larger kitchen and 29% were looking at the energy efficiency of the property which could have been prompted by those who are looking towards spending more time working from home going forward. People are also considering that there could either be a second wave or new pandemic and have now seen the reality of being in lockdown and feel that it’s happened once, it could well happen again.

High-speed broadband was also important to house hunters with 27% looking for a high-speed connection to enable efficient home working and home schooling.

Rather than looking at the proximity to public transport and road links, there was also a marked shift of people looking to live within walking or cycling distance of where they work – with 22% placing this as a priority. Access to green open spaces was also a priority for 35% of house hunters, proximity to small convenience stores was 33% and doctor’s surgery was 32%.

A quarter of those surveyed said that living in an area with a strong community was key, while 23% said they would make a concerted effort to get to know their neighbours when they move.

More time spent in the home has made us reconsider how we use the space that we have, and how our homes can adapt to more permanent change in the future.

If you are house hunting and would like to find out what you can afford which mortgage products are best for your circumstances, talk to us at The Mortgage Hub.

Lowest Ever Mortgage Rates

The average interest rate for two-year and five-year fixed rate mortgages has dropped to the lowest levels since records began in 2007 according to the latest figures from Moneyfacts. That makes it a great time to remortgage.

We are currently averaging lower rates than last month’s record low rate following two emergency cuts made to the basic rate in response to COVID-19 – this is the interest rate that the bank sets for lending to other banks. The fall in the official cost of borrowing impacts swap rates upon which fixed-rates mortgages are based – and lenders have passed on the reduction in borrowing costs to their customers.

However, some banks and building societies have reviewed the level of risk they take in lending – this is due to the impact that COVID-19 is having on the UK economy.

With these record-breaking fixed rate deals, now is a great time to remortgage, especially if your deal is coming to the end. In addition, if you’re still sitting on your lenders’ SVR, you could save thousands per year by switching to an average two-year fixed rate deal. The gap between the cost of a two-year and a five-year fixed-rate deal has also narrowed so you could pay a lower premium for the peace of mind knowing what your mortgage repayment will be for the next five years.

However, the number of mortgage products to choose from has more than halved – from over 5,200 products to 2,500.

There are currently less products available to borrowers with a low amount of equity or small deposit – those with 5% can choose from 22 products compared to 279 previously available and the choice for those with a 10% has dropped from 563 to 50. That’s why it’s essential to talk to a mortgage broker to find the right deal.

Although lenders have increased rates on loans for people borrowing 95% of their home’s value, this is only a small rise of 0.04% for a five-year fixed rate and 0.1% for a two-year fixed rate and they are still open for business for this sector of the market.

Because lenders have cut rates for people borrowing 90% of their property’s value this shows that competition is still strong in this area even though there are fewer products available.

At The Mortgage Hub we can scour the whole market on your behalf and help you find the best deal and find out if your application will be accepted. Talk to us for advice – we are currently closed but still working remotely until it is safe to open.

 

Buying and Selling Property During COVID-19

Everyone in the property industry is working hard to keep things moving during the coronavirus pandemic.

Even though we are social distancing, working from home and home-schooling our children, it doesn’t mean you can’t look for a new property. With many properties still for sale since the lockdown lots of estate agents are still working remotely in order to give you advice, property information and even hold virtual viewings and appraisals.

According to the latest figures from Zoopla, property sales have continued since the lockdown began and although, as you would expect, the number of available properties is lower, many people have kept their home on the market. In fact, figures show that the number of homes currently for sale is only 1% lower than on March 7th.

This stock is essential in order for the market to bounce back.

People are still searching

There were 70% fewer property sales since the start of coronavirus restrictions but there was an increase in the number of people browsing online for property in the second week. People are using this time to socialise online, look towards the future and being at home, many have started to see their surroundings in a new light. According to Zoopla, browsing levels have increased by 16% week on week.

The market will be affected by first time buyers keen on having their own space after lockdown, families looking for more outside space as the restrictions have made them realise the importance of a garden and we may even see some couples either make the decision to move in together or part – as the lockdown will have made people reassess their personal relationships.

Don’t withdraw your home from the market

With the number of people in lockdown and relying heavily on Internet browsing for things to do, this could be a good time to have your home on the market. If you’re already on the market – there’s no reason to withdraw it. The government hasn’t stopped property transactions from proceeding and empty property purchases can progress as normal. What’s more, mortgage brokers, lenders, solicitors and estate agents are all still working, albeit remotely. If your home is already listed with an estate agency, they can continue to market your property even though buyers won’t be able to view it in person until the current social distancing measures are lifted.

If you receive an offer on your property, there is nothing to stop you negotiating and accepting it, but you will need to be aware that the process will take longer than usual. There will be delays with the process including surveys, exchanging contracts and getting a mortgage approval.

New listings

Estate agents are still working remotely even though the branches are temporarily closed. Although they cannot come to your home for photographs and measurements, they can still provide valuations and help prep your home for sale for when the restrictions are lifted. It’s a good idea to get ahead of the game and get in touch now before they do open up again and their diaries are full. They can also talk to potential buyers about your property before it is on the market and arrange viewings for when the lockdown is over.

Searching for a home

If you are looking to buy a property you can still do things during the lockdown to get ahead. Browse homes online and take virtual tours if possible. Talk to your local agents and tell them what you are looking for – they may know of properties that will be listed for sale once the lockdown is lifted.

Talk to a mortgage broker to find out what you can borrow and the products that are currently available.

If you do find a property you can put in an offer for it, although as mentioned above, the conveyancing process is likely to be slower than usual.

Get your home market-ready

Spend this time getting your property prepped for a sale. Declutter, make repairs, tidy up the garden (gardeners are still working) and consider whether there’s any furniture you could remove from rooms and store in the loft or garage to help make the space look bigger or more appealing.

We are still helping customers to find the right mortgage during this time here at The Mortgage Hub. Talk to us today – we are here to help.

Government Advice for Movers

This week the Government issued advice to those thinking of moving or in the middle of a transaction, and it has urged buyers and sellers to adapt and be flexible.

It has been advised that if you are in the middle of a house move and a sale has been agreed, to continue with the sale – there’s no need to pull out. However it’s important that you follow guidance to stay at home to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.

The new advice on house moves from the Government moves states: “Given the situation in the UK with regard to the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19), we urge parties involved in home moving to adapt and be flexible to alter their usual processes.

“There is no need to pull out of transactions, but we all need to ensure we are following guidance to stay at home and away from others at all times, including the specific measures for those who are presenting symptoms, self-isolating or shielding. Prioritising the health of individuals and the public must be the priority.

“Where the property being moved into is vacant, then you can continue with this transaction although you should follow the guidance on home removals.

“Where the property is currently occupied, we encourage all parties to do all they can to amicably agree alternative dates to move, for a time when it is likely that stay-at-home measures against coronavirus (COVID-19) will no longer be in place.”

Therefore, it’s important that where possible you delay moving to a new property while the country fights Coronovirus. If you have already exchanged missives and the property is currently occupied then it’s important to agree a delay in order to resolve the situation or at least give yourselves enough time to have the property cleaned prior to moving in.

If moving is unavoidable and parties are unable to reach an agreement that allows flexibility then you must follow advice on staying away from others to minimise the spread of the virus.

Mortgage lenders are currently working to find ways to enable customers who’ve exchanged contracts to extend their mortgage offer for up to three months to enable them to move at a later date.

Given that there should be no visitors to your home at present, it’s important that you do not have viewings on your property – this is not to say that your agent can’t to conduct virtual viewings so speak to them about this as an alternative.

You can still accept an offer on your property but factor in that the process will take longer and you may find that the buyer changes their mind further down the line given the volatility of the situation across the UK. However, if the property you’re buying is unoccupied you can continue with the transaction.

Talk to us if you would like further advice on buying and selling property at this time.

Mortgage Payment Holidays

Mortgage lenders over the last couple of days have set out how they will provide payment holidays for up to three months for those who are financially affected by Coronovirus (COVID-19).

Mortgage payments are often the largest outgoing for homeowners and lenders want to reassure them that they are working towards measures to support them during this very difficult and uncertain time – especially as we don’t know how long this may go on for.

If you are concerned about your current financial situation, we can help. We can talk to you about any implications a mortgage payment break could have, liaise with your lender or inform you of what you need to ask them when you do speak to them.

In the meantime, here’s a brief guide to taking a mortgage break: BLOG

Taking a Mortgage Payment Holiday

A mortgage payment holiday means that your mortgage repayment is deferred for a set period of time during which you won’t make any repayments. Interest will still accrue whilst you are on your mortgage payment holiday.

You may want to take a mortgage payment holiday due to a shortfall of income that you believe is a temporary situation. This isn’t a permanent solution because you will need to carry on making your full mortgage repayments once this period is over – usually three months. The shortfall will be made up in the future, which could be over the remaining term.

How does it work?

While you take a mortgage holiday, the capital sum of the loan remains the same while the interest accrues. At the end of the payment holiday the rules re-apply and your lender will assess your circumstances and come to an arrangement regarding repayment of the arrears. Any arrangements will minimise the risk of repossession.

Will there be a blanket repayment holiday?

At this point in time lenders are helping people on an individual basis so an automatic payment holiday for all customers isn’t necessary as not all customers will be unable to meet their repayments.

Will it affect my credit score?

Lenders have stated that because of the very unique circumstances we are facing due to COVID-19, they will be talking to credit references agencies to ensure that it will not impact their credit score. However, we advise that you check with your lender before making the decision to take a mortgage break. Each lender has a different approach for reporting to credit reference agencies, but they have made assurances that a repayment holiday won’t result in an adverse impact on your score.

How do I apply?

Lenders are offering customers who are up-to-date with their mortgage payments and impacted by COVID-19 the ability to self-certify. Usually, a lender will assess your individual finances and consider what options are suitable. However, with the sheer volume of people asking for help they have waived this for a more straightforward process.

If you believe that you have been impacted by COVID-19, talk to your lender at your earliest convenience to find out if this is a suitable option. At The Mortgage Hub we can help you so get in touch if you would like advice on applying to your lender.

Am I eligible?

If you have been in arrears with your mortgage repayments and aren’t up to date, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) rules state that lenders must ensure that any forbearance offered enables recovery through full repayment of arrears, minimises the long-term impact of arrears, and that the mortgage remains affordable and sustainable in order to ensure that your home won’t be repossessed in the future. That’s why payment holidays are a short-term solution and will not be offered if you aren’t currently up-to-date.

Renting

We advise that you contact your landlord or managing agent if you are worried about meeting your rental payment. Your landlord may be able to talk to their mortgage lender to discuss the options which could allow you to take a break in payments.

Get in touch if you’d like any advice. We’re here to help.

Coronovirus (COVID-19) and Insurance

We deal with many insurers here at The Mortgage Hub and would like to share the following general guidance on their policies in light of the current COVID-19 outbreak.

There is no exclusion on many Life Cover policies that apply to COVID-19 or other infections disease, which result in the death of the plan holder. Should you pass away as a result of COVID-19 or complications from the virus, you will receive the lump sum as set out in your plan.

If you have Serious Illness Cover (SIC) it may not be covered by Coronovirus. If the virus causes a long-term debilitating illness or condition covered by your policy, you would be eligible to claim.

With regards to Income Protection, you will be able to make a claim if you’re unable to work due to COVID-19 after the expiry of the deferred period as set out in your plan. This could include situations where quarantine is imposed by a GP and you are unable to carry out your work duties in your home environment.

Every plan and policy will differ so it’s essential that you get the correct advice. Talk to us at The Mortgage Hub and we will give you clear information and facts and look into your policy so that you know what you could be currently entitled to.

Arranging Insurance

We can arrange appropriate cover that suit your individual circumstances if required. Whether you are in an ‘at risk’ category i.e. you have an underlying health condition or are currently pregnant, we strongly advise that you get advice on the options available to you. Or perhaps COVID-19 has raised your awareness of protecting your income. We offer telephone appointments if you are currently in isolation and can talk you through the options.

Our Policy During the COVID-19 Outbreak

At The Mortgage Hub we have been working on a contingency plan to assure our clients still receive the excellent service standards that we have always achieved.

We have full remote access to all our systems should any or all of us be required to self-isolate. We want to reassure our clients that it will be business as usual during this current (COVID-19) Coronavirus outbreak and we are working hard to make sure that happens.

During this period, we are available to conduct appointments via a phone call and or over email.  This will ensure that clients can still conduct any arrangements speedily and with ease.

For visitors to our branch, the health and wellbeing of our clients and employees is of utmost importance and we are following official guidance from the UK Government. For example, our branch will be an environment where we will not shake hands with clients, staff are educated on prevention and we have elevated our already high standards of hygiene.

We believe that even during these challenging times people in Scotland will continue with buying and selling property to take advantage of the recent rate changes, and we are on hand to ensure our clients get the best mortgage deal possible.

We will monitor the situation closely and navigate this period with the health and wellbeing of everyone in mind.

If you would like to make a telephone appointment, please don’t hesitate to contact our team who will be more than happy to help.

Thank you for your support.

Investing in Property in Scotland – Glasgow Tops Buy to Let Yields

According to the latest research from Sourced Capital, Scotland currently offers the best buy-to-let yields in the UK.

Buy-to-let yields here in Scotland are currently 5.8% with Glasgow hitting an average of 7.8% followed by West Dunbartonshire at 7.2% and Inverclyde at 7.1%.

Compare this to England, the average buy-to-let yield is just 4.1% with the Burnley hitting the highest average with 6.6%. Wales currently has the worst yields at 3.6%.

House prices in 2019 were generally stagnant in England, Wales and Northern Ireland with Scotland outperforming the rest of the UK. This was a result of Brexit uncertainty and also the slowdown in the run up to the General Election. Although the market seemed to stall somewhat, rental yields saw a boost due to a fall in property values coupled with high rental demand.

Late last year there was a flurry of activity with a strong market in January with both Zoopla and Rightmove reporting the highest ever activity from buyers. This also applied to investors looking to get a foot in the door and get a good deal before prices retain momentum and the returns tighten.

For those looking to invest, now is a great time to invest in property as the market is still finding its feet.

What’s more, it has been reported that the cost of buy-to-let mortgages has fallen year-on-year. This fall in the cost of borrowing is great news for landlords as they can move to more competitive fixed rate mortgages. The biggest drop has been for five-year fixed mortgages whereas falls for two-year fixed rate buy-to-let mortgage offers were more modest.

With the current record low rates on offer landlords should act fast as interest rates could rise back to more normal rates in the not too distant future.

The decision by the government four years ago to introduce a 3% surcharge on second homes caused a mini-boom as landlords rushed to buy properties to beat the deadline and many of these landlords are coming to the end of fixed-rate mortgages and will find that the market is more favourable.

If you are looking to invest in property, talk to us at The Mortgage Hub for the best possible deal for your circumstances.