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Where does the housing market stand with a 3% base rate?

With constant increases in the Bank of England base rate, mortgage rates have been hitting the headlines with regularity.

While rates have risen, housing market sentiment has fallen. A record half (52 per cent) of adults across Britain disagreed it was a good time to buy a property, according to a September survey by the Building Societies Association.

So where does this leave first-time buyers, and those looking to remortgage?

Mark Harris, chief executive of SPF Private Clients, says that for first-time buyers it is arguably as good a time as any to buy, if they have found a home they want to purchase, are happy with the price they are paying, can afford to pay it and are prepared to stay put for a few years.

“Buyers will be aware that there is talk of property prices falling and potential negative equity for first-time buyers in particular because they tend to take on higher loan-to-value mortgages.

“But such issues are only really a problem if the buyer intends to sell again in the short term. Over time, prices tend to appreciate in value and usually recover even if they dip initially.”

Richard Howes, director of mortgages at Paradigm Mortgage Services, says first-time buyers could take advantage of any fall in house prices, but adds: “It’s the issue of affordability coupled with the cost of living increases that could really impinge on their ability to buy.”

With falling house prices widely predicted across the market, Simon Gammon, managing partner of Knight Frank Finance, says it is reasonable to expect lenders to be hesitant about offering competitive high LTV mortgages.

“We have already seen a reduction in the number of 90 per cent and 95 per cent mortgages available, and those that are still available come at a significant premium in terms of rate. We can therefore expect it to be harder for first-time buyers to get onto the property ladder in the foreseeable future.”

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Just Mortgages national director Carl Parker says it is without doubt becoming more challenging for both first-time buyers and those looking to remortgage after a low fixed rate.

“This is just because rates have risen so quickly, making it hard for people to adjust. However, swap rates are starting to fall back and therefore mortgage rates are dropping a little too. However, they are unlikely to ever return to the historic lows of the past 10 years.”

Vikki Jefferies, proposition director at Primis Mortgage Network, also points to fixed rates stabilising despite the 0.75 percentage point increase in bank rate. But she agrees that borrowers reaching the end of a fixed rate will be faced with higher rates than they are used to.

“This may come as quite a shock for some, especially with house prices falling and reductions in loan-to-value ratios. As a result, product transfer could prove to be a better option for some as customer loyalty can be considered, which sometimes includes preferential rates.

“With fixed rate mortgages currently seeing higher rates than standard variable rate mortgages, talking through the options available to clients is now more important than ever.”

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Indeed, Harris at SPF Private Clients says many clients are seeking variable or tracker rates with no early repayment charges to remortgage. “These are comparatively so much cheaper, at least initially than a fixed rate.

“[Clients] plan to move onto a fixed rate, once pricing of these falls. Meanwhile, if interest rates don’t rise as fast or as far as previously predicted, a variable rate mortgage may turn out to be a good option.”

When it comes to house prices meanwhile, Howes at Paradigm Mortgage Services cites expectations of price growth to slow, rather than prices to fall. “With the recent surge in prices since Covid, most homeowners will have equity they can utilise.

“Indeed, the average LTV of the top five lenders is 60 per cent and they cover around 72 per cent of all lending in the UK, so the average person looking to remortgage should be okay.

“What is of concern though is that remortgage affordability could be an issue, and of course the conveyancing market with its delays and current timescales makes it less attractive than perhaps doing a further advance and product transfer.

“This area could be an issue for advisers, where the DIY product transfer could come into play, at a time when advisers are needed more than ever.”

Parker at Just Mortgages agrees that the need for mortgage advice is at its peak. “The daily fluctuation in mortgage rates has made the role of brokers absolutely vital to help borrowers assess their affordability against changing criteria, and navigate options in this mortgage landscape.

“It is also essential that brokers make the time to reach out to existing clients, to see what help and advice they need, and help to put their minds at rest during this changing interest rate environment.”

By Chloe Cheung

Source: FT Adviser

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Vendors told to ignore estate agency calling for a 10% cut to asking prices

Following the recent drop in buyer demand, vendors have been advised to slash their asking price by 10% as rising mortgage rates make homes unaffordable for many buyers.

Sellers need to be “realistic” in a cooling property market, Leeds-based estate agency HOP warned last week, as economic uncertainty takes its toll on the housing market.

Luke Gidney, managing director of HOP, told the press: “You need to be really realistic as a seller, if you want to sell your property you need to be realistic and consider a 10% reduction on what you would have done six months ago.”

The estate agent’s advice follows months of economic uncertainty, which looks set to continue after the Bank of England said that the country faced one of its longest-ever recessions, and interest rates were hiked to 3%. Economists at Capital Economics predicted the day before the rate rise that house prices would drop by 12% by 2024.

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“The problem we’ve got right now is the interest rates are making these properties unaffordable,” Gidney added. “There’s still interest out there, but people are genuinely worried. I think the combination of the fuel crisis, the cost of food, inflation and mortgage rates, I think people are extremely worried about it, and they are putting off these big decisions and maybe sitting on their hands for a bit.”

He said the sentiment among some first-time buyers was “why buy now when prices next year might be 10, 20, or 30% lower?”

He added that he knew of multiple buyers dropping out after an agreement because they were rethinking their decision.

But Tom Cranenburgh, who runs GetanOffer, said sellers should hold their nerve.

He commented: “We’ve certainly seen buyer enquiries drop off lately, but I’ve got a feeling this is just temporary. There are still lots of people who’d love to buy a home. If things get more stable soon, big price reductions shouldn’t be needed.

“There’s a simple reason why some are suggesting doing this and that’s overpricing. Some, in fact many agents, have at one time or another been guilty of overpricing property either with the owner’s blessing or worse, to get the property on the books. Many estate agents wrongly think it’s better to get a seller on the market [usually with a fixed term contract] and bring the price down later, than it is to be honest about price and lose the business to someone who isn’t.

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“With the possible exception of a handful of sellers who are truly desperate, or who have discovered a defect with the house that necessitates a big drop, sellers chopping 10% off were never going to get their price, whatever the market conditions.”

Jonathan Rolande, the founder of property firm House Buy Fast, agrees. He added: “There’s no doubt the property market is under immense pressure right now and the time of year doesn’t help either, dark afternoons and Christmas are ahead of us.

“But if your agent is suggesting you knock 10% off the price of your most expensive asset, ask them why.

“Why, when the market is down less than 1% is this necessary? If they were the agent that suggested the price in the first place, I’d suggest you always get a second and third opinion first.”

By Marc Da Silva

Source: Property Industry Eye

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UK records steepest house price fall in nearly two years, Halifax figures show

The UK has recorded the biggest monthly fall in house prices since early 2021, according to an index.

The average property’s value fell by 0.4% in October, marking the third month-on-month drop seen in the past four months, Halifax said.

October’s month-on-month decrease follows monthly falls of 0.1% in both July and September and a 0.3% increase in August.

Meanwhile, annual house price growth slowed to 8.3% in October, from 9.8% growth recorded in September.

Across the UK, the average house price in October was £292,598, which was the lowest figure since May this year, although typical prices remained near record highs, according to the lender.

Elsewhere, annual price growth among home movers fell to 8.9% in October, from 10.3% in September.

The price growth slowdown for first-time buyers was more notable, slowing from 10.1% in September to 7.5% in October.

Given the greater challenges for first-time buyers in deposit-raising, plus tighter requirements for higher loan-to-value mortgages, the faster slowdown in prices is not surprising, the bank said.

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Kim Kinnaird, director of Halifax Mortgages, said: “Though the recent period of rapid house price inflation may now be at an end, it’s important to keep this in context, with average property prices rising more than £22,000 in the past 12 months, and by almost £60,000 [25.7%] over the last three years, which is significant.

“While a post-pandemic slowdown was expected, there’s no doubt the housing market received a significant shock as a result of the mini budget, which saw a sudden acceleration in mortgage rate increases.

“While it is likely that those rates have peaked for now – following the reversal of previously announced fiscal measures – it appears that recent events have encouraged those with existing mortgages to look at their options, and some would-be homebuyers to take a pause.

“Understandably we have also seen consumer caution grow as industry data shows mortgage approvals and demand for borrowing declining.”

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Last week, the Bank of England (BoE) increased the base rate to 3%, from 2.25% previously.

This was the latest in a string of base rate increases, meaning that since December last year the average monthly tracker mortgage payment will have increased by £284.17 in total, according to figures from trade association UK Finance.

Andrew Simmonds, director at Bristol-based Parker’s Estate Agents, said: “Since the summer, I’ve been telling vendors that their house is worth what it was worth 12 months ago. I’ve lost instructions because they’ve said ‘nah’.”

He added: “Plenty have since come back to me saying: ‘You were right’.”

Source: ITV News

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How to understand what’s going on with UK mortgage rates

The UK mortgage market has tightened as confidence in the economy has faltered in recent weeks. Lenders withdrew more than 1,600 homeloan products after the (then) chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s September mini-budget sent the UK economy into a tailspin.

Rates on the mortgage products that are still available have risen to record levels – average two-year and five-year fixed rates have now passed 6% for the first time since 2008 and 2010 respectively.

The Bank of England has intervened to try to calm the situation. But this help currently has an end date of Friday 14 October, after which it’s unclear what will happen in the financial markets that influence people’s mortgage rates.

This is a crucial issue for a lot of people: 28% of all dwellings are owned with a loan, with mortgage payments eating up about a sixth of household income, on average.

Looking at how the market has developed over time can help to explain how we got here and where we are going – which is basically headfirst into a period of high interest rates, low loan approvals and plateauing house prices.

All financial markets are driven by information, confidence and cash. Investors absorb new information which feeds confidence or drives uncertainty, and then they choose how to invest money. As the economy falters, confidence erodes and the interest rates that banks must pay to access funding in financial markets – which influence mortgage rates for borrowers – become unpredictable.

Banks do not like such uncertainty and they do not like people defaulting on their loans. Rising interest rates and uncertainty increase their risk, reduce the volume of mortgage sales and place downward pressure on their profits.

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How banks think about risk
Once you understand this, predicting bank behaviour in the mortgage market becomes a lot easier. Take the period before the global financial crisis of 2008 as an example. In the early 1990s, controls over mortgage lending were relaxed so that, by the early 2000s, mortgage product innovation was a firm trend.

This led to mortgages being offered for 125% of a property’s value, and banks lending people four times their annual salary (or more) to buy a home and allowing self-employed borrowers to “self-certify” their incomes.

The risks were low at this time for two reasons. First, as mortgage criteria became more liberal, it brought more money into the market. This additional money was chasing the same supply of houses, which increased house prices. In this environment, even if people defaulted, banks could easily sell on repossessed houses and so default risks were less of a concern.

Second, banks began to offload their mortgages into the financial markets at this time, passing on the risk of default to investors. This freed up more money for them to lend out as mortgages.

The Bank of England’s base rate also dropped throughout this period from a high of 7.5% in June 1998 to a low of 3.5% in July 2003. People desired housing, mortgage products were many and varied, and house prices were rising – perfect conditions for a booming housing market. Until, of course, the global financial crisis hit in 2008.

The authorities reacted to the financial crisis by firming up the mortgage rules and going back to basics. This meant increasing the capital – or protection – that banks had to hold against the mortgages they had on their books, and strengthening the rules around mortgage products. In essence: goodbye self-certification and 125% loans, hello lower income multiples and bulked-up bank balance sheets.

The upshot of these changes was fewer people could qualify to borrow to buy a home, so average UK house prices dropped from more than £188,000 in July 2007 to around £157,000 in January 2009. The damage was so deep that they had only partially recovered some of these losses to reach £167,000 by January 2013.

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New constraints
Of course, prices have boomed again more recently. This is partly because banks had slowly started to relax, although with less flexibility and more regulation than before the global financial crisis. This reduction in flexibility cut product choice, but low interest rates and low monthly payments have encouraged individuals to take on more debt and banks to grant more mortgages.

Availability of loans fuels house prices so the cycle starts again, although within a more regulated market this time. But the result has been largely the same: average house prices have risen to just shy of £300,000 and the total value of gross mortgage lending in the UK has grown from £148 billion in 2009 to £316 billion by 2021.

But when new information hit the markets – starting with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year – everything changed and confidence tanked. The resulting supply-side constraints and spiking fuel prices have stoked inflation. And the very predictable response of the Bank of England has been to increase interest rates.

Why? Because increasing interest rates is supposed to stop people spending and encourage them to save instead, taking the heat out of the economy. However, this rise in interest rates, and therefore monthly mortgage payments, is happening at a time when people’s disposable income is already being drastically reduced by rising fuel prices.

Mortgage market outlook
So what of the mortgage markets going forward? The present economic situation, while completely different from that of the 2008 financial crisis, is borne of the same factor: confidence. The political and economic environment – the policies of the Truss administration, Brexit, the war in Ukraine, rising fuel costs and inflation – has shredded investor confidence and increased risk for banks.

In this environment, banks will continue to protect themselves by tightening product ranges while increasing mortgage rates, deposit sizes (or loan-to-values) and the admin fees they charge. Loan approvals are already falling and cheap mortgages have rapidly disappeared.

Demand for homeloans will also keeping falling as would-be borrowers are faced with a reduced product range as well as rising loan costs and monthly payments. Few people make big financial decisions when uncertainty is so high and confidence in the government is so low.

Optimistically, the current situation will cause UK house prices to plateau, but given the continued uncertainty arising from government policy, it’s realistic to expect falls in certain areas as financial market volatility continues.

Source: The Conversation

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What’s The Future For UK Mortgage Rates?

The Bank of England raised interest rates in September from 1.75% to 2.25%. The 0.5 percentage point increase marks the seventh rise since December 2021 when Bank rate stood at just 0.1%. It also puts Bank rate at its highest level for 14 years.

Concerns are mounting around further, and steeper, interest rate rises in the face of sterling volatility and increasing market uncertainty. Some mortgage lenders, including Halifax, Virgin Money and Skipton Building Society are pulling mortgage deals for new applicants.

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Interest rates, mortgages…
So what do climbing interest rates mean for mortgages? The two million homeowners on variable rate deals, such as base rate trackers, will see an almost immediate rise in their monthly repayments following the recent Bank rate rise to 2.25%. As an example, a tracker rate rising from 3.5% to 4% will cost almost an extra £60 a month on a £200,000 loan.

Remortgagers and first-time buyers will also be faced with higher mortgage costs when they come to source a deal, with the cost of new fixed rates having already factored the latest rise into the price.

… house prices and Stamp Duty
As well as more expensive mortgages, those looking to buy or move home are grappling with relentlessly rising property prices. The average cost of a property coming to the market increased by 0.7% in September (£2,587) to £367,760, according to Rightmove. Annually, average asking prices are 8.7% higher in September than a year ago.

However, Stamp Duty cuts announced in Friday’s Mini Budget – which raised the nil-rate band on the purchase of a property from £125,000 to £250,000 – means that with a third (33%) of all homes listed on Rightmove are now exempt from the tax.

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Fixed rate mortgages
More and more homeowners are now opting for longer-term fixed mortgages in a bid for stability in the face of continued rising interest rates. But while, historically, borrowers would pay more to fix in for longer, the price gap is closing.

According to mortgage broker Trussle, the top interest rate on a no-fee 75% loan-to-value fixed rate mortgage is now 3.25% over two years, 3.35% over five years, or 3.99% over 10 years. Refer to our mortgage tables below for what deals are available today for your deposit level and circumstances.

Why are interest rates rising?
The Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) uses interest hikes as a means of cooling the economy and taming rising inflation. The Consumer Prices Index (CPI) measure of inflation already stands at a heady 9.9% in the 12 months to August against a government target of 2%.

And with the pound falling dramatically on the international currency markets this week, there are fears that inflation could continue to balloon, prompting the Bank of England to hike rates to as high as 6% from their current 2.25% by next year.

The Bank’s MPC is scheduled to next meet on 3 November to decide on interest rates. However, depending on what happens in the markets and wider economy, there is a possibility that an ’emergency rate rise’ could happen sooner, although the Bank has suggested this is unlikely.

One of the main longer-term drivers behind rising inflation is the cost of energy. The government has intervened by replacing the energy price cap – which had been due to send energy prices soaring to over £3,500 a year from 1 October – with a cheaper Energy Price Guarantee.

This will limit the cost of typical-use household bills to £2,500 a year for two years, with an additional £400 automatic discount applied to electricity bills for every household between October 2022 and March 2023.

By Laura Howard

Source: Forbes

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Truss to announce stamp duty cut – report

UK housebuilders rallied on Wednesday following a report that Friday’s mini-budget could include a plan to cut stamp duty.

According to The Times, prime minister Liz Truss will announce the move in the mini-budget in an attempt to drive economic growth. It was understood the PM and chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng have been working on the plans for more than a month.

Truss believes that cutting stamp duty will encourage economic growth by allowing more people to move and enabling first-time buyers to get on the property ladder, The Times said.

It cited two Whitehall sources as saying that cuts to stamp duty were the “rabbit” in the mini-budget, which the government is billing as a “growth plan”.

Under the current system, no stamp duty is paid on the first £125,000 of any property purchase. Between £125,001 and £250,000 stamp duty is levied at 2%, £250,001 and £925,000 at 5%, £925,001 and £1.5m at 10% and anything above £1.5m at 12%. For first-time buyers the threshold at which stamp duty is paid is £300,000.

During the pandemic, then chancellor Rishi Sunak lifted the stamp duty threshold to £500,000.

At 0910 BST, Persimmon shares were up 5.4%, while Taylor Wimpey and Barratt were up 4% and Berkeley was 3.5% firmer. On the FTSE 250, Redrow was 5.6% higher, while Bellway and Crest Nicholson were up 3.6% and 3.4%, respectively.

Tom Bill, head of UK residential research at Knight Frank, said: “Nobody can accuse the new government of lacking an economic vision. If its low-tax approach extends to stamp duty, recent history tells us it will trigger higher levels of demand in the housing market at a time when mortgages are getting more expensive, which will support social mobility.

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“Prices could move higher in the short term if supply initially struggles to keep up but more balanced conditions will return provided the cut is immediate and permanent.”

Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at Markets.com, referred to the potential stamp duty cut as “the old Tory trick of juicing the housing market in its heartlands to boost confidence (wealth effect) whilst doing not a lot for housing supply”.

“I’m not for concreting over the green belt at all, but there will be questions about the economic soundness of this policy, as there always is. However, with interest rates rising so quickly, an offset to the cost of buying a home would grease the wheels of the market -without higher rates could cause the housing market to seize up.”

He added: “Clearly a stamp duty cut is good news for housebuilders who can expect higher selling prices as a result.”

Sarah Coles, senior personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, argued that a stamp duty cut could do more harm than good.

“Buyers are unlikely to be unhappy at the prospect of a tax cut, but if the government chooses to cut Stamp Duty in an effort to stimulate the housing market, there’s a risk it could do more harm than good.

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“It’s easy to see why the government is concerned about the housing market. We’ve seen demand fall consistently since May, when rocketing bills, rising house prices and ever-increasing interest rates started to take a toll on buyer enthusiasm. There’s a risk that if rate rises accelerate, pressure on buyers could reach a tipping point, where demand dries up.

“We know from very recent experience that a Stamp Duty holiday can stimulate demand. However, the only reason these holidays work is because people feel they have a small window of opportunity to take advantage, otherwise they’ll miss out. The point at which they think they can just wait for the next one, they will start to become less effective.

“Even if it does stimulate demand, it overlooks the fact that the real brake on the property market is a severe shortage of supply. With an average of 36 properties on each agent’s books, we’re still close to an all-time low in the availability of property for sale. Driving demand without addressing supply would risk more buyers chasing a tiny number of properties, which would push prices up.

“By ramping up prices at a time of rising mortgage rates, the end result would be higher monthly mortgage costs, which would be increasingly unaffordable. And the Stamp Duty holiday wouldn’t help on this front. This in itself could be enough to put buyers off, and if it deters enough of them, it could end up having the opposite impact to the one that’s intended.”

By Michele Maatouk

Source: Sharecast

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Fall in UK house prices ‘should be taken with a pinch of salt’

A fall in house prices in July 2022 should be taken with a pinch of salt, a contractor mortgage brokerage today warns.

Freelancer Financials, which specialises in mortgages for contractors, sounded the cautionary note this morning, following the Halifax recording the first property price dip in 13 months.

The limited company-friendly lender found that average house prices fell between June and July by 0.1%, while the annual rate of price growth over the same period eased from 12.5% to 11.8%.

The first of its kind since June 2021, the 0.1% fall takes the average property price tag to £293,221, down £365 on the previous month’s record-high, Halifax said.

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‘Stimulated’
But it is probably unfair to compare today’s house prices with 2021’s — when the stamp duty holiday “stimulated the market,” according to Freelancer Financials’ John Yerou.

“Plus, there is usually a seasonal drop-off in the summer months of July and August,” continued Mr Yerou, the brokerage’s chief executive.

“This fall in prices is only fractional …[and] comparing 2022 with pre-pandemic levels, in 2019, demand is still up.”

Similarly, despite the fall of just 0.1% on a monthly basis, house prices remain more than £30,000 higher than this time last year, observed Halifax’s managing director Russell Galley.

‘Bigger houses, biggest price gains’
The lender signalled that contractors looking to move up the property ladder will probably benefit the least from the tiny price fall, because the gains in the values of larger homes are still strong.

Price gains for “bigger houses” even outpaced those for smaller homes in July, with the price of a detached property inflating by £60, 860 (+15.1%), versus £11,962 (+7.7%) for flats.

“Although this fall in house prices seems to indicate that the housing market is cooling off… [it[ should be taken with a pinch of salt,” cautioned Freelancer Financials’ Mr Yerou.

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‘Drivers of buoyancy remain’
“We shouldn’t read too much into any single month”, agreed Mr Galley of Halifax.

“Leading indicators of the housing market have recently shown a softening of activity, while rising borrowing costs are adding to the squeeze on household budgets against a backdrop of exceptionally high house price-to-income ratios.”

Galley added that some of the “drivers of the buoyant market” of late, such as extra funds saved during the coronavirus pandemic and changes to how people use their homes, remain.

However Halifax says the “extremely short supply” of homes for sale is serving to “underpin” property prices at a high level.

‘Negotiating power gradually shifting’
At Freelancer Financials, Mr Yerou shared his outlook with ContractorUK: “Several indicators point to activity in the market continuing to cool from the lofty heights of the last two years.

“It is likely that the impact of interest rate rises will gradually trickle through, but right now they’re not having a serious impact on the property market. Yes, demand has lightened a fraction and negotiating power is gradually shifting to buyers, but until the imbalance in affordable properties is addressed, house prices will remain stable.”

By Simon Moore

Source: Contractor UK

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Barclays makes major lending push with £2.3bn deal for Kensington Mortgage Company

In a major push to broaden its lending offering, banking giant Barclays said this morning it has agreed a deal worth around £2.3bn to buy specialist lender Kensington Mortgage Company.

Barclays said the acquisition will allow it to offer more mortgage options to the self-employed and people who have multiple or variable incomes.

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The bank will also take ownership of a portfolio of mortgages offered by Kensington Mortgage Company, worth £1.2bn, in efforts to lend to a greater variety of customers.

The deal comes after the pandemic has led to an increase in the number of self-employed borrowers and those with complex incomes due to the impact of the Government’s furlough scheme and the wider effect on job volatility.

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The Maidenhead-based specialist lender has around 600 staff and offers buy-to-let residential mortgage options as well as owner-occupied lending.

The transaction is expected to complete towards the end of 2022 or early 2023.

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Matt Hammerstein, chief executive of Barclays, said: “The transaction reinforces our commitment to the UK residential mortgage market and presents an exciting opportunity to broaden our product range and capabilities.

“KMC is a best-in-class specialist mortgage lender with an established track record in the UK market, strong broker and customer relationships and data analytics capabilities.

“KMC complements our existing UK mortgage business and broker relationships through the addition of a specialist prime mortgage originator and the utilisation of our strong UK funding base,” Hammerstein concluded.

By Michiel Willems

Source: City A.M.