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Mortgage Choice at Highest Level Since March 2020

Those looking to move currently have the highest number of mortgage products to choose from since the first national lockdown last March. At present, there are 3,215 mortgages to choose – the highest number for 11 months. Before the lockdown, there were 5,222 mortgages in the market.

Since October 2020 there has been a 42% increase in the number of mortgage deals available. This is the highest four-monthly rise in choice since 2007, according to Moneyfacts. This is a sign that the mortgage market is now stabilising after a difficult year and good news for borrowers looking to secure a good deal on their new home or for those looking to remortgage.

The impact of the pandemic

When the pandemic hit and we went into lockdown, mortgage choice fell sharply, and this continued on several months. Lenders withdrew many products as they waited to find out what the true financial impact of the pandemic would be. Borrowers with smaller deposits were very hard as lenders withdrew many high LTV products, leaving those with smaller deposits very few options. What’s more, many house builders put their release dates on hold impacting those who had a mortgage offer using Help to Buy. In fact, nine out of 10 mortgages for people with a 10% deposit were withdrawn between March and July.
Fast forward to 11 months later and choice is once again improving, particularly for those with small deposits. Lenders are less risk averse as the property market seems to have fared well with rising house prices and stable interest rates.

Options for first time buyers

First time buyers with a 10% deposit saw the number of mortgage deals available rise to 288,88 in January 2021. Not only was there a rise in product choice but the number of deals available quadrupled from October to February. In addition, there has been a fall in interest rates on mortgages. Competition among lenders appears to be returning, with the average cost of a two-year fixed rate for those with a 10% deposit falling 0.09% over the last month, while the cost of a five-year fixed rate deal fell 0.07%.  For those with a 5% deposit, the choice is still very limited and dependant on your circumstances.

Existing homeowners

For those looking to move home or remortgage, the number of deals available to choose from has significantly increased and there are currently around 500 different mortgages available for those with at least 40% equity in their home. In addition, the cost of a mortgage has fallen.

Interest rates charged on a two-year fixed rate mortgage for these borrowers have fallen 0.05%, while rates on five-year fixed rate deals have fallen 0.07%.

At The Mortgage Hub we have access to the whole of the market and will be able to match the right deal to your circumstances. Contact our team today.

Purchasing a New Home? Get Mortgage Ready!

The recent LBTT threshold change, combined with a re-evaluation of homeowner priorities has led to a surge in demand for property in Scotland. The current levels of market activity looks set to continue for the foreseeable future.

In today’s busy market, it’s important that when buying your first or second home, you are prepared and have everything in order – including your finances. This will help to avoid any unnecessary delays when buying your new home.

Your credit score

Lenders will take a look at your credit score to get a general picture of how you manage your finances. It will tell them how much debt you are in, whether you repay the debt, if you have faced any financial difficulty and how much available credit you are using. Take a look at your credit report to make sure it’s accurate, giving yourself time to sort out any problems, and consider how you can improve your score.

In the six months before applying for a mortgage, try not to apply for too many credit cards or loans. Pay your debts on time and if you can, pay your credit card bill in full rather than just meeting the minimum payment. Missing any scheduled payments will impact your credit score and deem you ineligible for certain mortgage products or rates so make sure you don’t miss any payments such as your mobile phone bill, credit card, loans, car payment and any other dents. Your lender needs to view you as financially responsible.

Another simple way to improve your credit score is to make sure you are listed on the electoral register.

Save your deposit

At present lenders are asking for a minimum deposit of 10% when buying a home (less if you are using a government scheme such as Help to Buy (Scotland). The more you can save, the better, as this means you can secure a more competitive rate which will keep your monthly repayments down. Proof of being able to save money is also a good indiction to lenders that you are good with finance. Although gifted deposits are still acceptable.

Stable income

Lenders will look at your employment status, income and employment history when you apply for a mortgage. If you have a regular income you will eligible for more products. If you are considering a job move or career change, you might want to wait until after you have secured a mortgage and bought a home. It can also be harder to prove stable income if you work for yourself so get everything in order if you are self employed including bank statements and tax returns submitted to HMRC.

Get the right advice

As with all major financial decisions, it is important to talk to the experts to find out what you need to do to prepare for your mortgage application. A mortgage broker will not only help you work out the deposit required and the cost of your mortgage  but also the other costs you will need to consider. These include the property valuation, surveyor fees, legal and estate agents’ fees, removal costs, maintenance charges and regular bills once you have moved. Whilst some of these are one-off costs, others are a long-term commitment. Make sure you are aware of all the costs before you even consider taking out a mortgage so that you can plan ahead. Finally, make sure you use a mortgage broker who can look at the whole of the market to secure the right mortgage for your circumstances and will often have access to deals that aren’t available from high street lenders.

If you are considering a mortgage now or in the future, talk to us at The Mortgage Hub and we can help you to prepare.

The Property Market Remains Open

It was announced earlier in the week that Scotland is entering into a new lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19. Although many businesses have been instructed to close, one industry remains open – the property market.

The current guidance states that all activities in connection with moving home, including property viewings, are permitted to take place. It also includes maintenance, purchase, sale, letting or residential property. The full guidelines are available here.

Marketing your home

Under the current guidelines you are able to put your home up for sale and seek a property to either purchase or rent. However, if you or any member of your household has either symptoms of COVID-19 or a positive test, you must not leave your home for any reason.

Estate agents can take photographs, measure for floorplans and take video footage of your home for marketing purposes and all conveyancing solicitors and mortgage brokers/lenders are still working as usual in order to enable the sale or purchase of a property.

Buying a home

For those looking to buy a home, it is recommended that you first look at the details online and take advantage of online tours. Only if you are seriously considering making an offer, should you visit the property in person and speculative viewings are strongly deterred.

If you do need to arrange a physical viewing of a home, make sure you wear a mask throughout the viewing, avoid asking any questions in person, avoid touching any surfaces and door handles (all doors should be open) and you should wash your hands before and after entering the property. It’s advisable that you visit the home with no more than one person from your household and avoid taking any children with you. Make sure you make an appointment as ‘open houses’ are not permitted. When in the property with an agent, make sure you retain a two-metre distance at all times.

All lenders are working as per usual so you should still be able to seek and apply for a mortgage. Talk to your broker to find out the timescales and to discuss any likely delays.

Selling a home

If you are selling a property during this time, make sure that you keep all doors and windows open when a viewing is arranged. Make sure you are not at home and reiterate to the agent that prospective buyers should not touch any door handles or surfaces. It is a good idea to leave hand sanitiser at the entrance or ask your agent to provide this to prospective buyers.

Moving home

You can still book a removals firm to help you move home, but to minimise any transmission of Covid it is recommended that you pack your belongings yourselves to avoid your items being handled by anyone else. When the removals team is in your home, keep a safe distance of at least two metres and wash your hands regularly. Try and book as early as possible as they are very busy in many areas and could be short staffed due to the isolation rules. When you unpack make sure everything is wiped down.

Are there delays?

If you’re moving home during lockdown there could be delays in the conveyancing process because some solicitors and agents may be operating at limited capacity or clearing a backlog caused by not only the pandemic but also the festive period. If you are about to enter into a legally binding contract, you should discuss the possible implications if someone has to self-isolate or quarantine.  Ask about the protocols in place to manage these risks. Should anyone in your household experience symptoms just as you’re about to complete, you should postpone things by a few weeks.

Can tradespeople come out to my home to carry out work?

The current rules allow tradespeople to carry out essential work in your home, provided they have no coronavirus symptoms, do not have a positive Covid test result and are following all the necessary safety guidance. However, if you are due to have a tradesman enter your home, ask if they have symptoms and double check that they will be using PPE.

We are on-hand to offer advice on all aspects of obtaining a mortgage or remortgaging your home. Talk to our friendly team today.

 

House Prices Rise Steadily

According to the latest House Price Index for August, house prices are steadily rising against the backdrop of the Coronovirus pandemic.

UK average house prices increased by 2.5% during the year to August, up from 2.1% in July. On a monthly basis, this was a rise of 0.7 per cent, and an improvement on the 0.3 per cent monthly increase seen in August 2019.

According to the latest Rightmove House Price Index, the national average of a property coming to market is 1.1% higher than the previous month and 5.5% higher in September than a year ago with prices predicted to rise by 7% by December. It also reported that the average time to sell a property was 31 days in Scotland and 50 days across the UK and the number of active buyers is 66% higher than a year ago.

These figures show that prices are rising steadily due to a return to the market after the housing market ground to a halt in April. Following the reopening late June, the level of activity has been nothing short of exceptional.

ONS said house price growth had generally slowed down since 2016 but noted activity seemed to pick up again this year once the property market reopened in May.

Not only did we see a backlog of people who were in the early stages of a move but following lockdown there has been a re-evaluation of buyers’ priorities as many people are now working home full or part time and require additional inside space. With lockdown restrictions in place, the only part of our homes we can currently socialize in is our gardens and so this has led to a flurry of interest in three and four bedroom homes with gardens and less demand for apartments with no outside space.

There has also been a shortage of suitable housing stock coming on to the market leading to greater demand which drives up prices, combined with the effect of the stamp duty holiday for properties up to the value of £250,000.

It is predicted that September will see an even sharper upswing once the figures are all in and that the impact of the stamp duty will start to be seen.

Mortgage rates are at an all time low which means there are some great mortgage deals available at present – further driving people to consider a house move.

Talk to us at The Mortgage Hub if you would like to find out about available mortgage deals suitable for your circumstances.

Homes Selling at Fastest Rate in 10 Years

According to Rightmove (4 September) one in seven properties are under offer within a week of going to the market following what can only be described as a buying frenzy.

The number of homes selling within one week has hit a 10-year high and since the threshold change for Stamp Duty (LBTT) was announced across the UK in July, the number of sales agreed is up 125% on the same period last year and 28% up on February 2018, Rightmove’s previous high. The stamp duty holiday has accelerated the moves of second steppers seeking larger family homes with space to enable more home working. In addition, the lockdown has highlighted the importance of outside space.

Whilst Scotland has the UK’s fastest selling market, London is the slowest with only one in nine homes sold within the first week that it went to market.

In the 10 years in which Rightmove has been tracking data, they have discovered that more properties are selling now than at any time. The fastest selling properties are three-bedroom semi-detached houses. In London the share is a fifth of agreed sales but in Scotland it’s a third of all sales.

It is believed that the current property boom is being driven by transactions of larger three and four-bedroom family homes as buyers rush to save on LBTT.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s decision to raise the nil-rate band from £125,000 to £500,000 for homes across England and Northern Ireland means that buyers are able to save as much as £15,000 when purchasing their home before the March 31st 2021 deadline. The move was followed by similar measures in Scotland and Wales.

However, at entry level, buyers are finding it increasingly difficult to get onto the property ladder as larger deposits are required compared to pre-lockdown.  Lenders have withdrawn several low deposit mortgage deals due to fears of falling house prices and the limit on surveyors being able to conduct physical property valuations. However, these are slowly being introduced back into the market by lenders. High loan-to-value mortgages are still available but have more restrictions.

The good news is that first time buyers can still take advantage of the First Home Fund and Help to Buy (Scotland) to get onto the property ladder with just a 5% deposit, making buying a first home a reality for many.

If you are considering moving, it’s important to act now as there are currently some delays following lockdown – so even if a sale is agreed quickly the sale could take longer to complete.

If you are seeking a mortgage or would like advice on mortgage availability for first time buyers talk to us at The Mortgage Hub and we will endeavour to help.

House Prices Set to Rise

According to Zoopla, the surge in demand for property following the easing of lockdown restrictions will carry strong house prices until the end of the year.

Even though the rebound in activity in the housing market is expected to subside in the coming weeks in England and after an expected spike here in Scotland, the elevated demand combined with stock levels 15% lower than in 2019 will create upward pressure on house prices.

Zoopla’s latest data and analysis shows that this surge may delay the fall in house prices until at least the end of this year.

The analysis of house prices comes from sales agreed before we went into lockdown. The data on pricing for new sales agreed in the last four weeks is starting to feed through already and this points to the continuing upward pressure on house prices that we saw from January to the beginning of March.

For the first three months of the year prices were rising at 7% and in England over the first two weeks of June, they have returned to registering a similar growth. The majority of these sales are likely to complete between August and October this year in England and slightly later here in Scotland. Zoopla predicts that these should result in a sustained UK house price growth of between 2% and 3% over the next quarter.

There will be an initial rebound, but demand will weaken over the summer months as the economic impact of the coronavirus lockdown starts to become evident. Last week the ONS indicated an acceleration in unemployment resulting in caution amongst lenders and the limited availability of 90% loan to value (LTV) mortgages which will reduce demand particularly amongst first-time buyers who have driven the housing market.

Last year around 20% of all homebuyers purchased a property with a deposit of up to 10% and so a decrease in the availability of 90% mortgages could prevent first-time buyers entering the market and reducing demand.

Almost 20% of homeowners have taken a mortgage payment holiday and they can extend this up to the end of October this year which means support is extended for the rest of the mortgaged sector up until April next year.

UK house price growth is up 2.4% on the year and has increased from 1.6% at the start of 2020. This rebound in housing market activity has taken many in the industry by surprise but is welcome news.

Here in Scotland, where the market reopens on Monday 29th June has seen demand rise back to pre-COVID levels, but sales remain more than two thirds lower and are expected to rebound in the coming weeks.

Talk to us at The Mortgage Hub if you would like to discuss your next move.

Property Market in England Opens Back Up

The property market here in Scotland is set to stay on hold for another few weeks, despite restrictions being lifted in England.

How will the ease of restrictions in England affect the property market and could we learn lessons here in Scotland about how to proceed when we are able?

In England, employees who cannot work from home are being encouraged to return to workplaces albeit they need avoid public transport if possible. They are also allowed to spend more time outside (as are we here in Scotland) but are able to travel further afield from their homes in their cars. In addition, estate agents have been permitted to open up for business.

The immediate result was that on Wednesday morning between 7am and 8am Rightmove reported a 45% rise in online property viewings compared to the previous day. In addition, over 2,000 properties were listed for sale on the property portal.

At present, it remains unclear when viewings and new instructions will be able to start again in Scotland but there have been some potential benefits of the lock down to the property market over the last few months.

People have been allowed to spend time walking or cycling locally which has given them a feel for the area and to see streets and pockets that they may not be familiar with. Now that people can go out further afield in England, they have further opportunity to scope out areas of interest more easily. In addition, they can check out the outside of properties that they could previously only view online.

Under current government guidelines, people have been asked to delay property transactions until after social distancing measures have been lifted. However, if the property is empty there is no reason that you can’t continue with the purchase. Many buyers and sellers are renegotiating on timescales with the sale still set to go ahead.

Virtual viewings

With many estate agents working from home and continuing to value properties and market existing homes, many have turned to virtual viewings to enable people to see homes during the lock down. Although they cannot visit homes to take photographs, conduct appraisals for new listings or show prospective buyers around a property they have been able to use the Internet to still promote property that are either currently online or coming soon.

Some agents use 3D cameras that allow browsers to take a self-guided tour of a property and others have used videos taken by the vendors – and with many people using high quality mobile phones with video capability, this has been made even more possible.

The ‘new normal’

Even when things ‘return to normal’, the property market and the way that agents conduct viewings could look quite different.

Buyers are likely to be more heavily vetted to minimise speculative viewings with only serious buyers permitted to enter homes. They will have to adhere to stringent hygiene guidelines and will be unable to open doors and cupboards as part of the viewing process to minimise touching surfaces. When they do view a house, they will have to remain 2m away from the estate agent at all times and children won’t be permitted to accompany parents on viewings. Owners will need to vacate the property and buyers will be encouraged to avoid second and third viewings before making an offer.

Stamp Duty (LBTT)

Although there is evidence that there has been pent up demand from buyers, The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and The The National Association of Estate Agents have called for a stamp duty to kick start the market. This would boost confidence and encourage housing growth for the remainder of this year.

We will be closely watching how the property and mortgage markets perform in England. Contact us if you would like help with your mortgage needs – we are still working remotely.

Furlough Explained

Before March this year, many people hadn’t ever head of the furlough scheme. With the onset of the coronavirus pandemic it has become something that we are all now familiar with. Whether you have been furloughed by your employer or want to know more about it, here’s our brief guide.

If your company cannot give you work due to the coronavirus outbreak, you are likely to have been furloughed and your employer would have written to you explaining the situation. If you were made redundant after February 28th, your employer can choose to rehire you under the scheme.

Over the next few months, millions will rely on the furlough scheme although it doesn’t apply to employees who had already signed a contract or switched jobs after the cut-off date 28th February.

What is furlough?

Furlough supports businesses that have been hit by the effects of the Coronovirus (COVID-19) crisis. These include companies within industries that have come to a standstill including pubs, restaurants, cafes, travel firms, hotels, airlines, estate agents, retailers, several service providers and more. Only essential businesses are currently still open. A recent poll by YouGov suggested that 14% of workers had already lost their job due to Coronovirus.  The treasury expected 10% of private firms to use the scheme but 44% of those polled have indicated that they will place at least half of their staff on furlough.

Furlough provides temporary help to pay 80% of the average annual wage of those who cannot do their jobs. The aim is to help companies retain employees and keep them on the payroll rather than make them redundant, even if they aren’t working.

How much will you receive?

The amount that companies can claim back from the government is 80% of an employees salary, up to £2,500 per month before tax per employee. The company can choose to top this up to the full monthly amount. You are required to have been on the payroll of the company since at least 28 February 2020 and can be full time, part time, or on a flexible, zero-hour or agency contract. The minimum amount of time you can be furloughed for is three weeks. The scheme operates for three months from March 1st although most people won’t receive furlough until the end of April in the first instance.

If your wages vary each month, your salary will be based on either your average monthly wage from the previous tax year or the same salary as the previous year for that particular month – whichever is higher.

Does it include bonuses?

You will receive up to 80% of your core salary and it doesn’t include any bonus or commission payments you were due to receive. It will also cover the minimum automatic enrolment pension contributions made by your employer, along with their National Insurance contributions.

Employment rights

If you are on furlough you will have the same employment rights. If you become unwell, you will be placed on statutory sick pay and placed on furlough when you recover. If you are shielding, you are also eligible.

Restrictions

If you have been furloughed, you cannot do any work for your employer. If you have more than one employer, you can receive furlough from any of them up to £2,500. You can also continue working for any employer that still requires your services and you can still volunteer for your company as long as you aren’t creating revenue or providing a service.

You can’t do any work for your employer if you have been furloughed.

When furlough ends

When furlough ends your company is under no obligation to keep on employees, but the government has indicated that the scheme will be extended beyond the end of May if required. However, the hope is that when furlough ends, restrictions will have been lifted and businesses can operate as normal enabling companies to pay their employees as before.

We are still here and on-hand to help you to navigate this difficult time. Whether you want to find out more about taking a mortgage break, proceeding with a mortgage offer or remortgaging, talk to our team today.

Several Lenders Retain Their Mortgage Offering

Following the news that several lenders, including Halifax and Barclays, are withdrawing mortgage products with a high Loan to Value (LTV), Mortgage Solutions has revealed that other lenders have no plans to follow suit.

In the last few days, Barclays announced that it will only accept applications on 60% LTV mortgage products and Halifax revealed that they had made the same decision.

Other lenders are holding firm at present and have revealed that they have no plans to do the same although they have indicated that this will be under constant review.

Some of the largest lenders including Nationwide and Santander are still offering 95% LTV mortgage products as of March 26th. Nationwide has also stated that it will continue to support the market within the very unusual constraints in this present situation as a result of COVID-19. It does not have any immediate plans to withdraw mortgage products but admitted that applications could take longer to process. Similarly, Santander is monitoring the situation to see how this crisis is affecting the mortgage market.

At present all of the major lenders are offering mortgage holidays for anyone who’s income has been affected by COVID-19 as a way to support existing customers and if this is pre-agreed, it should not have any adverse effect on your credit file.

If you feel that you need a mortgage repayment holiday, make sure you agree this with your lender first or talk to us for advice. We are still working hard to provide the same level of service, albeit remotely, so please don’t hesitate to contact us.

 

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.