Home buyers get help with soaring mortgage bills
Mortgage holders were given assurances by lenders today that new measures will be available to ensure they do not lose their home or fall into arrears.
Home buyers will be offered more flexibility over mortgage products, including those coming to the end of fixed rate deals. No one needing support will see their credit score impacted.
The moves follow a meeting with the banks, building societies and Financial Conduct Authority called by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt after the Bank of England hiked the base interest rate to 5%.
Mr Hunt, said: “There are two groups of people that we are particularly worried about. The first are people who are at real risk of losing their homes because they fall behind in their mortgage payments.
“And the second are people who are having to change their mortgage because their fixed rate comes to an end, and they’re worried about the impact on their family finances of higher mortgage rates.
“So today I agreed with the banks and the principal mortgage lenders and the Financial Conduct Authority three very important things.
“The first is that absolutely anyone can talk to their bank or their mortgage lender and it will have no impact whatsoever on their credit score.
“The second is that if you are anxious about the impact on your family finances and you change your mortgage to interest only or you extend the term of your mortgage and you want to go back to your original mortgage deal, within six months, you can do so, no questions asked and no impact on your credit score.
“That gives people a powerful new tool for managing their monthly budgets – and it will begin taking effect within the next two weeks.
“And finally for people who are at risk of losing their home in that extreme situation, the banks and mortgage lenders have a number of things in place. The last thing that they want to do to repossess a home, but in that extreme situation they have agreed there will be a minimum 12 month period before there’s a repossession without consent.
“These measures should offer comfort to those who are anxious about high interest rates and support for those who do get into difficulty.”
Martin Lewis, founder of MoneySavingExpert.com said: “The most important thing we can focus on right now is appropriate, flexible forbearance measures. While the Bank of England’s aim is intended to squeeze people’s disposable incomes, no one wants people’s lives to be ruined by arrears and repossessions – and that is the urgent protection we need to focus on.
“I met the Chancellor on Wednesday and reiterated that the minimum we needed was to ensure that when people asked for help from lenders, they knew that if things changed, it wouldn’t be detrimental to their financial situation and their credit scores would be protected as much as possible.
“I’m pleased to see it looks like the Chancellor has listened and those measures are going to be put in practice by the banks.”
The latest market indicators from the FCA and UK Finance show that mortgage arrears and defaults remain below pre-pandemic levels, which were already extremely low. The FCA reported 0.86% of total residential mortgage balances in arrears in the first quarter of 2023 which is significantly lower than the 3.32% rate in 2009.
The proportion of disposable income spent on mortgage payments is currently at 5.4%, compared to around 10% in the 1990s and prior to the financial crisis.
The average homeowner re-mortgaging over the last twelve months had around a 50% loan-to-value ratio. This indicates homeowners have considerable equity in their homes, which makes it easier to manage repayments.
Lenders have less than 10% ‘owner-occupier mortgages’ on their books with loan-to-value rates greater than 75%, compared to around 25% before the 2008 financial crisis. Taken together, this puts the market in a significantly stronger position than before.