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Taking on the challenge of a self employed mortgage

Self-employed people still face an uphill struggle in mortgage applications, but help is at hand. Though some lenders have tightened their criteria, others are working with mortgage brokers to encourage buyers with complex incomes. Article by Nick Green.

If you run your own business, work as a contractor or earn through freelancing, then you’re disproportionately more like to have your mortgage application refused. Despite an extensive raft of measures from the government to help first-time buyers, from the stamp duty holiday to 95% mortgages, self-employed people are still relatively lacking in support. However, some lenders such as Bluestone are now taking a more proactive stance to encourage the self-employed, and many mortgage brokers remain very happy to take these customers on.

It has always been more difficult to get a mortgage when self-employed. Lenders prefer the reassurance, predictability and ease of calculation that comes from a regular income, rather than the more erratic, complex incomes (generally) associated with self-employment. The pandemic and lockdown have only amplified these differences, especially as many self-employed people and business owners have been less well-supported by grants and furlough schemes. As a result many lenders further tightened their lending criteria, at least initially. But there are a signs of a shift in the other direction.

A poll in April by Mortgage Solutions found that six out of ten mortgage brokers believe that product availability is narrowing for self-employed borrowers, while criteria are growing more stringent. However, nearly a third thought the opposite, suggesting that opportunities are still out there for those who persist. There are also indications that some lenders are being forced to relax their criteria, to avoid losing their customer base.

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Why the self-employed get a ‘raw deal’ on mortgages

What’s not in dispute is that the search for a mortgage has become a lot harder for the self-employed. Research by Mortgage Broker Tools (a platform used by mortgage advisers) suggests that almost a third of self-employed mortgages are now effectively ‘unaffordable’, and that the maximum amount such customers can borrow has dropped by 3% since August.

The research also found that over a third of self-employed applicants had suffered at least one mortgage rejection. A comparable study by mortgage broker Haysto found this figure to be smaller, at one in six, but still significant. Paul Coss, co-founder of Haysto, feels that the self-employed get a raw deal, given that often they can boast higher incomes in real terms than people on salaries can. He says, ‘Mortgage lenders tend to prefer people in full-time employment, because it’s easy and simple to understand their income. Being self-employed, your income isn’t as straightforward, [but] people shouldn’t be penalised for that.’ His view is that most mortgage lenders just aren’t willing to handle the extra effort of dealing with complex incomes.

Kaan Emin, a broker at Apply Mortgages, warns that self-employed people who use the government support scheme SEISS (the equivalent of furloughing themselves) may inadvertently harm their mortgage prospects. He says, ‘Most self-employed people of which have taken help from the Government during the pandemic are being disadvantaged by lenders. [They] have to return off furlough and evidence three months of business bank statements to evidence the same level of income they earned prior to the pandemic.’ He suggests that self-employed people should only use schemes like SEISS if absolutely necessary.

But David Baird, a mortgage adviser with Aventur Wealth, offers a more optimistic viewpoint. Although he concedes that Covid has had ‘a huge impact on self-employed mortgages’ and led to increased discrepancy, he says, ‘Personally I have not seen a decline in acceptance rates. Instead it has caused an increase in time taken on my part in researching the right lender for the right applicant.’ In other words, self-employed buyers still have a fighting chance if they can find a diligent mortgage broker who will search the whole of the market for them.

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New opportunities for self-employed homebuyers

Fortunately, some lenders do recognise the difficulties created by Covid, and are adjusting their requirements to reflect this. Leading the way is Bluestone Mortgages, which has updated its credit policy for self-employed applicants. Those who have experienced a drop of 10% or more in business income, but have since restored their earnings to their former levels, can use their 2019/20 as the yardstick both for affordability and maximum loan size. So long as borrowers can provide three months’ evidence of the restored income, it will be treated as the equivalent of a full year for mortgage purposes.

‘We are acutely aware of the hardships that the self-employed community has faced during the COVID-19 pandemic,’ says Reece Beddall of Bluestone, ‘and we remain committed to providing these borrowers with a lending solution that will better meet their needs.’

Shared ownership remains a possible route for those whose home ownership ambitions have taken a knock. This is most commonly offered by housing associations, but private companies are also creating opportunities. One of these is Wayhome, whose CEO Nigel Purves observed that the stamp duty holiday had still left a lot of people behind. He says, ‘Even with the Stamp Duty extension for an extra three months spurring on hopeful home buyers, there are many who find themselves overlooked and ignored due to their household income not meeting a mortgage lender’s criteria. This is despite them already having a deposit saved and being able to afford the equivalent of mortgage repayments in rent each month. More needs to be done to level the playing field and provide people with alternative routes into home ownership.’

Guarantor mortgages are another potential way to persuade a lender to take you on, though it requires having parents or other relatives willing to share the risk. Another, more radical option for self-employed first-time buyers may be to try and ‘weaponise’ the very thing that is keeping them off the housing ladder: namely, the over-inflated housing market. How? Such a move would likewise need the help of willing parents, who fully own their home mortgage-free and are willing to release equity from it to raise money for a deposit. The parents use equity release to take a chunk of money from their own home’s value, which becomes all or part of the deposit for their offspring’s home. So effectively it is an ‘equity transfer’.

Bob Hunt, chief executive of Paradigm Mortgage Services, says he is now seeing ‘a much closer alignment between the equity release sector and that of the first-time buyer.’ At one level the strategy makes a lot of sense – if the problem is down to rising house prices, then rising house prices can be part of the solution. The downside of course is that a lot of value is eroded during the equity release process, so by gifting a child a deposit made of released equity, parents would be reducing that child’s eventual inheritance by a much greater amount. Still, some families may consider it a price worth paying for the reward of home ownership.

Being self-employed does have many advantages, but ease of obtaining a mortgage isn’t one of them. Nevertheless, in the post-Covid market new opportunities are gradually emerging, and mortgage brokers are ready to help contractors, freelancers and business owners take advantage of them, while advising on the best options to choose.

By Nick Green

Source: Unbiased

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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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Bank of England to suspend market operations for State funeral

The BoE said CHAPS will be closed on 19th September, in line with its normal bank holiday arrangements.

CHAPS handled around 174,000 payments each day, in the year to February 2021, with an average payment value of £2.1m. That works out at around £367bn each working day.

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CHAPS is used by banks and large corporations to settle high-value money market and foreign exchange transactions, by companies to pay taxes, and by solicitors and conveyancers to settle property transactions.

The Bank’s Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) service, which underpins large transfers between bank accounts, will also be closed.

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Back in 2014, RTGS collapsed for most of a day, putting thousands of housing market transactions on hold.

Last week the BoE said the sale of corporate bonds held by the Asset Purchase Facility will be delayed by a week, to 26 September, following its decision to delay its next interest rate decision by a week (to 22nd September).

Source: London Loves Business