What does a market downturn mean for your mortgage?

James Brocklebank - Head of Mortgages

April 3, 2020

The coronavirus is impacting all of our lives, whether that is physically, mentally or financially. Things are changing every single day, and that is the same with mortgages. Whether it is the Bank of England reducing the base rate to 0.1%, lenders announcing mortgage payment holidays or lenders announcing they won’t lend anymore money. There are changes every single day.

Whilst there are some great things coming out of this from mortgage lenders, there are also several pitfalls which we'll explore below.

Payment holidays

Let’s start with the big news: lenders allowing you to take payment holidays. Almost all mortgage lenders have risen to the challenge. They have agreed to allow you to take up to three months off from paying your mortgage and have also said this may be extended depending upon external circumstances. This is a great step by lenders, but there are a couple of things to consider.

·       Do you need it? Whilst we appreciate this is a great boost to thousands of people, only apply for this Mortgage holiday if you need it. Don’t take it for the sake of having three months off your payments. Despite your payments being paused, you will continue to be charged interest. This interest is then added to your mortgage meaning you will pay more over the term of your mortgage. If you do need it, please speak to your lender.

·       How will it affect your credit file? Lenders have said they will try to stop it impacting your credit file, but that doesn’t mean it won’t. When you come to re-mortgage in two years’ time and there are three missed mortgage payments on your file, you may find that it could stop you moving lender, moving to a new house or getting a better rate.

If you are struggling, we wholeheartedly recommend speaking to your lender and seeing if you can have a break from your mortgage payments. Please consider all the risks of this, as your payments are going to increase after the holiday, and there are a lot of unknowns.

There are also other alternatives to having a break from your payments. Why not consider extending your term? The impact of this virus is likely to be far longer than three months, which could allow you to make this more affordable for the future. Why not convert to interest only temporarily? This will mean the interest isn’t building up on your mortgage. Or even paying some of the mortgage.

Whatever you are considering doing, please speak to your lender first. Don’t stop paying your mortgage!  

Interest rates

Don’t worry, it’s not all doom and gloom, there are some positives too. We are seeing the Bank of England base rate at an all-time low and as a result of this, mortgage rates are low, with some below 1%. If you are currently on the Standard Variable Rate, or on a tracker deal it might be worth considering re-mortgaging. We understand now might not be a great time to review your finances with everything going on, but it is worth getting some impartial advice to make sure you are on the best deal for your circumstances.

Purchasing a home

I have had a lot of people get in touch with me asking whether they should continue with their House purchase. Here at OpenMoney, we know how much goes into buying a home - the planning, the finances and most importantly the emotional impact on you. With these factors in mind, the answer is different for everybody.

The government is urging people not to move house during the outbreak to avoid breaking social distancing protocol, but this does not mean you should stop buying your dream home. It means you need to consider your options, such as delaying the purchase.

When deciding to buy a home, you will have put months of planning in place, and spoken to mortgage advisers, estate agents, solicitors, and family about the process. You will have saved for months and months to put your deposit down. You shouldn’t therefore stop buying your house without taking some time to thoroughly consider key factors such as the below:  

·       What does your financial situation look like? A lot of businesses are under enormous financial pressure with thousands at risk of losing their jobs, what is the chance of you losing yours? Are you self-employed, will your income be affected by everything going on? Whilst the government is doing its best, their help won’t last forever. Once that stops will you be able to afford those monthly mortgage payments for the next 40 years?

·       How could you be affected if you already have a mortgage offer? If you have lost your job and you have a mortgage offer, you must tell your mortgage lender. It is vital you do so. If they find out after you purchase the property, they can repossess it, and you could find yourself in a lot of trouble. If you have any potential issues, please speak to your mortgage provider or adviser.  

·       Will your options be limited? Some providers have stopped lending to help people purchase homes, and others have reduced what they offer. This may mean your choice is limited. However, it doesn’t mean there aren’t still thousands of mortgage products out there, it simply highlights the huge benefit of getting independent advice.  

The reasons for you buying a home aren’t going to disappear overnight. Whether it is buying your first home, your family needs more space, or you want to move to a nicer area. These reasons will still be there in two months or two years’ time, so don’t give up your dream of a new home. Take time to assess your situation and make an informed decision.  

One thing that this has reinforced for me, is the need for our country to have the right insurance and protection. Everyone in the office is sick of me saying this, but as a country we do not have enough protection in place if the worst is to happen. If you do one thing once we have recovered from this, and we will, please speak to someone and get the right insurance. Naturally, we don’t like talking about people passing away, or not being able to work for months at a time due to ill health, but it does happen and you need to have insurance in place to protect both you and your family.

I hope this has shown you a few of the options available to you, and has also given you few things to consider. Most importantly speak to your lender if you are in trouble, they are on your side and are there to help you.

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