UK mortgage market braced for surge ahead of further rate rises

The UK mortgage market is heading for a surge in activity over the coming weeks as borrowers look to steal a march on any further rises in lenders’ interest rates in 2022, brokers said.

The Bank of England raised its main interest rate for the first time in over three years on Thursday, citing inflation worries as the chief factor behind the increase from 0.1 to 0.25 per cent.

Chris Sykes, associate director at mortgage broker Private Finance, said the rate rise had prompted a flood of queries about its effects from clients who have become accustomed to rock-bottom interest rates — as well as administering a “kick up the rear” to those considering remortgaging or first-time borrowing.

“As a broker, sometimes you’re waiting weeks or sometimes months for clients to send you the right documents. It was surprising how many of those documents made their way into my inbox on Thursday,” he said.

Some borrowers are considering whether to incur a penalty fee for breaking away early from a fixed term deal to secure current low rates. Andrew Montlake, managing director of mortgage broker Coreco, said: “People are phoning us who are a long way from the end of their fixed rate period and saying, ‘Is it better for me to do something now?’”

The fast-spreading Omicron variant has introduced a new element of uncertainty as to whether the central bank will follow up with more rate rises, particularly if the economic situation worsens. Neal Hudson, director of housing market research company Residential Analysts, said the country remained “a long way from getting back to normal”.

But he anticipated a flurry of remortgage and homebuying activity could follow in the early part of 2022, including among first-time buyers whose affordability is already stretched.

“If you’re thinking about buying, you’ll think ‘I want to do this while I can get in and borrow responsibly’.” He added that even if mortgage interest rates were to rise as many expected next year, they would remain “relatively cheap” in historical terms.

In the short term, the rate rise will add to mortgage bills for the 2.2m people on variable rate deals, including standard variable rates as well as tracker mortgages, which usually follow the Bank of England’s base rate. Several banks, among them HSBC, Barclays, Lloyds, NatWest, Santander and Nationwide, announced the base rate rise would be incorporate into their tracker products.

For the 850,000 UK borrowers on trackers, a rise of 0.15 percentage points would add an extra £180 to annual repayments on average, according to industry body UK Finance.

Further base rate increases may lead to higher rates on fixed rate products, the most popular type of mortgage held by three-quarters of borrowers. UK Finance said 96 per cent of borrowers had opted for a fixed-rate loan since 2019.

Most lenders have already raised interest rates on their fixed-rate deals over the past two months as they typically take their cue from swap rates — which provide the market’s view on the future cost of borrowing — rather than base rates.

The rise in interest rates will be good news for some savers. Santander said it would pass on the 0.15 per cent rise to savers from January 12. However, finance experts warned that they should not expect all banks to pass on the rate rise automatically.

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