Wednesday 24th July 2024

How to navigate today’s choppy mortgage market

The mortgage market has had a turbulent time over the last few years. By the end of 2022, as a country we’d gone through four Chancellors of the Exchequer, three Prime Ministers, and a new monarch.

Not to mention inflation rising to 11% – its highest rate in 40 years – and Liz Truss’ disastrous mini-budget sending mortgage rates to levels not seen since the 2008 financial crisis.

Over 2023, mortgage rates continued to stay high thanks to several base rate rises by the Bank of England to curb inflation.

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So far in 2024, we’ve already seen mortgage rates fall, rise and fall again, alongside stagnant economic growth – not to mention an election on the horizon.

These economic changes have a huge impact on the property market. First-time buyers are facing the toughest conditions in 70 years, while the current higher rates are squeezing mortgage affordability for remortgagers and home movers.

As experts in mortgage affordability, here’s our advice to first-time buyers and remortgagers looking to navigate this new landscape.

1.   Shop around for the best rates

Don’t settle for the first mortgage rate you are offered, or go straight to the bank you have your current account with.

There are thousands of mortgage products out there, and different lenders offer different rates and terms, so it pays to shop around. Even a small reduction in your interest rate can result in significant savings over your mortgage term.

Working with a trusted mortgage broker can help you find the best deal for you from across the market.

At Tembo for instance, we compare your eligibility to over 20,000 mortgage products and over 15 specialist schemes to find the best ways for you to get onto the ladder, move up it or remortgage.

This includes ways to boost your affordability to access better deals, as well as ways to make your repayments more affordable.

2.   Get expert advice

The mortgage market can be volatile, and it’s impossible to predict what’s going to happen to mortgage rates or property prices over the next few months or years.

But working with a specialist mortgage broker – such as our team at Tembo – can help you navigate fluctuating interest rates, stricter lending criteria, and the wide offering of mortgage products available.

Mortgage brokers are normally the first to know when lenders are going to change their mortgage rates, so can help you lock in a rate before it’s repriced, or let you know when rates change.

If you’re far away from buying or remortgaging but want to keep an eye on current rates, we offer a free Tembo plan you can see personalised interest rates which auto-update every month. 

As experts in affordability, we can also help you find ways you could boost your buying budget, or access lower mortgage rates through a range of specialist schemes.

3.   Understand your budget

While interest rates remain high, it’s crucial to factor this into your budget when it comes to remortgaging or purchasing a property.

While mortgage rates are expected to come down this year, this isn’t guaranteed, and any drop is likely to be gradual.

Try using an online mortgage calculator to get a rough idea of what your monthly payments could look like.

If you go for a variable rate instead of a fixed rate, make sure you could afford your repayments if rates were to increase by 1-3%.

4. Get pre-approved early

In a competitive market, having a mortgage pre-approval gives you a significant advantage.

Getting a Mortgage in Principle – a formal document that shows how much you could borrow if you applied for a mortgage based on basic information like your income – shows that you are a serious buyer who can afford the property, which can be a deciding factor if you end up in a price war.

In fact, some home sellers and estate agents won’t let you view a property without one.

Once you’ve found a property and you’re ready to make an offer, get your mortgage offer set up as soon as possible. You can always re-apply later down the line if you find interest rates have dropped dramatically since you first applied.

Plus, mortgage offers are normally valid for three to six months, so even if rates do rise you’ll have locked in a deal already.

If you’re remortgaging, you can lock in a new rate to switch onto up to six months before your current deal ends.

With our free rate-checking service, if you apply for a remortgage through us six months before your fixed term ends and interest rates go down in that time, we can submit a new application for you at no extra charge.

If rates go up, then your lower interest rate will be safely locked in. So it’s a win-win!

5. Think outside the box

Not only are there thousands of mortgages out there, there is also a huge rise in the number of affordability-boosting schemes to help you get on the ladder, move up it or stay on it. House prices have increased by over 200% since 2000, while wages have stagnated, and lender criteria has got stricter.

The average home in the UK now costs 10x income, while in most traditional mortgages you’ll only borrow up to 4-4.5x your household income, leaving a huge affordability gap.

Using a specialist scheme like a family guarantor mortgage, shared ownership, or 5.5x income mortgages can significantly boost your affordability, help you buy sooner or access lower interest rates.

It can be difficult to navigate these affordability-boosting schemes by yourself, or through a traditional broker. This because a lot of these schemes are niche, and can have very specific eligibility criteria, which can make it hard to find out about them, and know if you qualify for these schemes without an expert’s help.

Whether you’re buying your first home, moving up the ladder or looking to remortgage, staying proactive and getting expert help will help you make the best decisions in today’s dynamic environment.

This blog was written by the multi-award winning mortgage affordability experts at Tembo.

Photo by Kindel Media

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