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Fixed rate mortgages have been the most popular type of mortgage by far, which is not likely to come as a surprise given the ultra low rates on offer. With Bank of England Base Rate at rock bottom borrowers like the certainty that fixed rates offer, especially when interest rates look set to climb at some point.
The vast majority have therefore elected to lock their rate down with a fix, given the very competitive deals and the fact that there is little to no chance of Base Rate falling. Against that backdrop why might a variable rate mortgage be a good choice?
It’s not just fixed rates that have improved in the lender rate war and some tracker and discount rates can offer very low rates, slightly undercutting those on corresponding fixed rates. Those that feel there is still a way to go before interest rates start to climb may therefore feel a tracker offers good value.
Secondly, trackers and other variable rate options are far less likely to carry any early repayment charges, which generally apply on fixed deals. These charges tie the borrower in so those that need more flexibility, either to overpay or to keep their options open, will find the freedom of many variable products attractive.
Of course, any borrower that is considering a variable product will need to check that they are well equipped to cope with higher payments, if interest rates do start to climb sooner and/or more quickly than they expected. Looking at the impact of higher rates on the mortgage payment will help a borrower test just how much they value flexibility over security.
It’s unlikely that we will see a big shift from fixed rates towards trackers and borrowers understandably like to know where they stand. However, variable products should not be dismissed and can be a good option for the right borrower.
According to the July 2015 Land Registry data, there was a monthly increase in average house prices across England and Wales of 1.7 per cent. The East region experienced the greatest monthly price rise at 2.8 per cent, followed by London at 2.5 per cent, while only Wales experienced a fall at minus 0.3 per cent.
The East also showed the highest annual change in prices at 8.9 per cent, followed closely by London and the South East. The North East saw the lowest annual change at 0.4 per cent but no region experienced a fall. The overall annual price change now stands at 4.6 per cent, making the average house price in England & Wales £183,861 and in London £488,782. By property type, semi-detached properties showed the highest annual increase at 4.9 per cent; the lowest was seen in flats and maisonettes at 4.2 per cent.
In greater detail, 14 counties and unitary authorities saw an annual fall in prices, one more than in June, the greatest being Blaenau Gwent at minus 5.5 per cent; Reading experienced the highest annual rise at 13.6 per cent. The strongest monthly growth was seen on the Isle of Anglesey with an increase of 3.4 per cent, while Pembrokeshire had the most significant monthly drop at minus 3.2 per cent. Eight counties and unitary authorities saw no monthly price change.
Of the metropolitan districts, Trafford again showed the largest annual price increase at 7.1 per cent; four saw a fall, the greatest being Bradford at minus 1.7 per cent. South Tyneside saw the highest monthly price increase at 2.3 per cent, while seven saw a drop, the largest being Wolverhampton at minus 1.4 per cent.
Of the London boroughs, Hillingdon saw the highest annual price rise at 14.6 per cent, while Camden experienced the lowest at 0.1 per cent. On a monthly basis, Barnet showed the highest increase at 2.6 per cent, while Hammersmith & Fulham saw the biggest monthly fall with a movement of minus 0.4 per cent.
The volume of properties sold in May 2015 was 15 per cent lower than a year earlier in England and Wales and 24 per cent lower in London; falls were seen across nearly all price brackets. Properties sold for more than £1 million across England and Wales as a whole fell by 21 per cent and in London by 26 per cent over the same period.
Month on month, the total number of properties sold across England and Wales rose from 57,180 in April to 65,619 in May, an increase of 14.8 per cent, chiefly seen in properties valued under £500,000. The number of property transactions from February 2015 to May 2015 averaged 61,283 per month, compared to 70,029 over the same period a year earlier.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that in the second quarter of 2015, the UK economy grew by 0.7 per cent, compared to 0.4 per cent in the first quarter. The Bank of England forecasts that, for the year as a whole, the UK economy will grow by 2.8 per cent, maintaining the same momentum as shown last year, when the economy expanded by 3 per cent – its best result since 2006. The Confederation for British Industry (CBI) has also upgraded its forecasts for this year at 2.6 per cent and next year at 2.8 per cent, based on an expectation of increased household spending, robust investment growth and an interest rate increase to 0.75 per cent in the first quarter of 2016.
The CBI’s revised forecast arose from recent ‘more hawkish’ comments by the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy committee (MPC). At the beginning of the month, the MPC voted by eight to one to leave the Bank Rate at 0.5 per cent, while unanimously agreeing to maintain the size of the Asset Purchase Programme at £375 billion. At the same time, the Bank of England Governor, Mark Carney, warned that the first base-rate rise in more than six years was drawing closer, possibly by February 2016, and that it would climb higher sooner. The Bank simultaneously released its latest Quarterly Inflation Report, which indicated that it expected inflation to be back to its target rate of 2 percent in two years’ time.
In mid-August, the ONS announced that inflation turned positive again in July, with the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) measure rising to 0.1 per cent from zero in June; a smaller fall in the price of clothing was reported to be the main reason, although it was partially offset by falling food and non-alcoholic drink prices. The CPI has been almost flat for the past six months, having turned negative in April for the first time since 1960. The Retail Prices Index measure of inflation was unchanged at 1 per cent.
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