How has the credit crunch affected you?’ is going to be one of the biggest and most often asked questions of 2008, and only a lucky few will likely be able to answer -not at all’.
More likely is you’ll receive an answer from one of the unlucky many whose finances have been stretched and tested – especially those with mortgages. In just a couple of years, the face of the mortgage market has changed dramatically, with banks and lenders desperate to pull something back in the wake of some reckless credit lending in recent years.
These changes are reflected in the results of recent studies into the mortgage market, in particular the facts showing the limiting of mortgage products available. March 2008 alone saw a drop of 2026 mortgage products (from 7726 to 5700) across the residential and buy-to-let markets, while home-loan deals have seen a fall from the 15,600 available in July 2007, to just 4,700 available today. Overall, then, mortgage lending has declined to an estimated 24 billion, a 6% decrease from February 2007, while February 2008 saw the lowest number of new mortgages approved since July 1995.
Though clearly foreseeable, one of the biggest products lost this year was the 100 per cent mortgage. In what has already been dubbed an end of an era, the last lender to provide a deposit-free loan withdrew the deal earlier this month. Buyers will now need to lay down a minimum deposit of 5% – an average of 10,000 – though one expert maintained that the withdrawal of the 100% mortgage from the market was a -sign of things to come’, and that it wouldn’t be long before the 95% mortgage followed in kind.
One of the beauty spots of the mortgage market that has seen an increase in products, though, is fixed-rate mortgages. Despite the two-thirds drop in the overall number of different mortgages available, the number of fixed-rate mortgages fixed for over 10 years has thought to have risen to a new high of 132. And with an estimated 1.4-million fixed-rate mortgage deals ending over the next twelve months, and customers looking to renew their packages, there luckily remains some choice in this area of the market.
Homeowners looking at fixed rate mortgages will, however, be hit by a sudden rise in payments when they switch to a new mortgage; the average to fix a mortgage for 10 or more years now being 6.14%, compared to an average 5.89% a year ago. With the future of interest rates uncertain though, fixed-rate mortgages still provide a more stable and secure payment plan – which is why the Chancellor announced his support for lengthy fixed deals in his Budget.
What is important for all homeowners or first time buyers thinking of going down this avenue of payment is that they compare fixed-rate mortgages and judge for themselves whether fixed-rate is the correct choice for them. A recent study showed that three out of four people didn’t know the difference an extra 1% had on mortgage payments, so if you’re unsure, also make certain you calculate the amounts you’d need to pay on different packages using an online mortgage calculator and be sure to speak to a professional beforehand.