mortgage-2021

Mortgage rates remain at a record high as availability rises in 2021

  • Mortgage market sees the highest approval rates since 2007. 
  • Homebuyers and investors rush to beat the stamp duty holiday deadline.
  • Interest rates could drop slightly in 2021.

Mortgage approval rates

Recent Bank of England figures revealed that 105,000 mortgages were approved by building societies and banks in November – the highest level since August 2007. The approvals increase was up from 97,532 one month earlier in October and tenfold since May when numbers plummeted to 9,400.

Homebuyers and investors rush to beat the stamp duty holiday deadline

Recently, the recovering strength in mortgage borrowing shows the keen desire of many to take advantage of the stamp duty holidayThe Government put the stamp duty holiday in place to help buyers when many are facing the coronavirus's financial hardships.

According to Chancellor Rishi Sunak the average stamp duty savings have been £4,500 and, with the policy, nearly nine out of ten home buyers pay no stamp duty at all. Now the tax holiday is coming to an end the number of property sales has continued to rise, putting pressure on lenders to keep up with the demand. 

The spike in demand has put mortgage approvals at record levels, which almost offset the decline at the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, there were 715,300 house purchase approvals before November, close to the 722,000 seen in the same period in 2019.

Kate Faulkner, housing expert, predicts 'a lull in activity in April and May if the stamp duty holiday isn't extended' but remains optimistic that 'there is enough demand for 2021 to deliver another good year for transactions.'

 

Mortgage products 2021

As lenders are gaining more confidence, there has been a rise in the number of mortgage products available. Homebuyers and investors will continue to embrace the additional option of mortgages on offer throughout the year.

First-time buyers

The added competition in the sector affects buyers with smaller deposits the most. First-time buyers have particularly struggled to obtain mortgages since the coronavirus outbreak, but if they have at least a 10% deposit, there are now more opportunities coming to the market. 

Loan-to-value

In 2021, 95% loan-to-value (LTV) mortgages are expected to remain almost obsolete. These mortgage products will only be used by first-time buyers getting their homes through the Help to Buy scheme. The absence of 95% LTV mortgages may require some buyers to postpone their purchasing plans.

Interest rates 

During 2020, mortgage interest rates stayed competitively low, but recently interest rates have started to rise. Throughout 2021, more lenders are predicted to come back to the market, creating more competition in the sector. If this happens, interest rates could fall slightly in 2021.

Rachel Springall, finance expert, says:

"While there is still a long way for mortgage availability to reach pre-coronavirus levels, it's continuing in the right direction... with interest rates expected to remain low, 2021 could be an effective time to secure these competitive mortgage rates."


green-homes

Green property in 2021 

  • The Green Homes Grant has been extended
  • Interest in green housing is increasing
  • Homeowners have till 31st March 2021 to complete upgrades

 

In 2020, the government announced an extension of the Green Homes Grant, which attracts landlords to eco-friendly properties. The plan offers a grant to property owners to make eco-friendly renovations on their properties. 

The aim is to encourage more property owners to install energy-efficient improvements—for example, insulation, heating, draught-proofing, and double and triple glazing. Renewable energy innovations, like heat pumps or solar panels, also qualify.

How does it work?

The Green Homes scheme offers funding for up to two-thirds of the improvement costs, to the value of £5,000 per household. Homeowners and landlords wishing to use the grant have until 31st March 2021 to get their upgrades completed. 

What's the result?

The Green Homes Grant means that making energy efficiency improvements is more accessible. The government's extension of the grant has seen positive results alongside the public's growing awareness of environmental issues.

In 2021, almost 84% of British homeowners plan to address energy efficiency changes in their property, according to a study by City Plumbing.

Nearly 53% of households plan to invest in green measures specifically to reduce energy bills. The home improvements most usually chosen include upgrades to the cavity wall, loft, and underfloor insulation. Improving your property's insulation can have a significant impact on its energy performance. 

Evan Maindonald, CEO and founder of MELT Property, believes that buyers are ready to embrace sustainable living.

"If you are looking to improve the energy efficiency of your home, a good first step would be to review your property's heating system. Old-fashioned heating systems will send utility bills rocketing and have a high carbon footprint. To reduce both, consider installing an Air Source or Ground Source Heat Pump."

 

Why landlords should invest in 'green' rental properties

There are numerous benefits and incentives for landlords to invest in green housing, and now couldn't be a better time. 

More appealing buy-to-lets 

Eco-friendly properties will help landlords make their buy-to-lets more appealing and add value to their properties. 

Caters for the target tenant

Landlords who invest more in their properties to offer a place that caters to their target tenant see the most market success. Tenants are beginning to expect more from their rental properties, and as environmental issues prevail on people's minds, green housing is appealing to a wide range of tenants.

Eco-properties as an energy-efficient selling point

Landlords can now utilize eco-properties for their energy efficiency. As we all spend more time in our homes with coronavirus lockdowns, household bills go up. This will be particularly appealing for prospective tenants who are now working from home full-time.

Green mortgages as an added incentive

Lastly, green mortgages are gaining popularity. The UK population becoming increasingly eco-conscious has allowed ‘green mortgages’ to find their place in the mainstream market. The mortgages give borrowers special rates linked directly to the energy performance of their properties. This provides an added financial incentive for landlords and investors to focus on green credentials.


lease-reform

New leasehold reform: Will it make homeownership fairer?

  • New leasehold reform will save millions of leaseholders tens of thousands of pounds
  • What does the reform change?
  • Will it make homeownership fairer?

 What is the new leasehold reform?

New legislation that has been brought forward, will give leaseholders the right to extend their lease for 990 years at zero ground rent. The leasehold reform will save millions of leaseholders up to tens of thousands of pounds. The government described these measures as part of English property law's biggest reforms in 40 years.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick says: "Across the country, people are struggling to realise the dream of owning their own home but find the reality of being a leaseholder far too bureaucratic, burdensome and expensive.

"We want to reinforce the security that homeownership brings by changing forever the way we own homes and end some of the worst practices faced by homeowners."

What does the reform change?

The reform will give leaseholders the right to extend their lease by a maximum span of 990 years with zero ground rent. Previously, leaseholders of houses have only been able to extend their lease for 50 years at a time and had to pay ground rent. 

Leaseholders have also been met with expensive charges to extend the lease. Some of these extra costs have now been abolished with the reform, such as the "marriage value". This required leaseholders to share information with the freeholder about potential profits from extending a lease.

A cap on ground rent, the cost paid when a leaseholder extends the lease or buys the freehold, will also be introduced. An online calculator will now make it easier for leaseholders to know how much it will cost to do either. This hopes to make the costs associated with a lease more transparent.

Will it make homeownership fairer?

While the proposed leasehold reform has much to support, many in the industry feel they need some more detailed information. There are concerns that the reform has created further uncertainty for leaseholders. Moreover, there is apprehension that the proposed actions could take years to become law.

However, for many in the property industry, there is a shared hope that the reform will make homeownership fairer and put an end to the ground rent scandal.

What is the ground rent scandal?

The ground rent scandal is one of the reasons why leasehold reform is so important. Objections to the unfair expenses on leasehold flats and homes sold with unclear clauses began some years ago. Some clauses involved freeholders increasing ground rent excessively. In some cases, leaseholders saw their rent double every ten years. The increased costs left some homeowners struggling to sell their property. As a result, properties with short-leases or high ground rents are often left vacant. 

Mark Hayward, the chief policy advisor at Propertymark, discusses the organisation's research into the ground rent scandal:

"Our research' Leasehold: A Life Sentence' in 2018 found that 46 percent of leasehold house owners were unaware of the escalating ground rent when they purchased their property. Over one million households in the UK are sold through a leasehold, and this new legislation will go a long way to help thousands of homeowners caught in a leasehold trap."

 

Conclusion

Homeowners will see direct benefits from the government's leasehold reform. 4.5 million homeowners will save up to thousands to tens of thousands of pounds. Furthermore, the reform will allow leaseholders to buy a freehold for a lower price. Overall, homeownership costs will become cheaper, and property sales will be more straightforward.

Let's not forget about the benefits for properties with shorter leases. Properties with short-leases or high ground rents are sitting empty around the country as owners struggle to sell. Homebuyers will now become more open to purchasing properties with shorter leases leading to fewer stranded, vacant properties. 

All in all, the leasehold reform is provides willingly received changes to many in the property industry. The only desires that remain are for details to be made explicitly clear and actions to be fulfilled promptly.


2021-market

London Property Market 2021

  • Londoners leave the capital
  • Foreign investment to remain strong
  • Tenant demand to increase

The development of the property market will principally rely on the UK's economic resurgence from the coronavirus. In 2021, the economy is forecast to grow by 5.3%, but the recovery still faces uncertainty.

The pandemic's ambiguity meant it was a challenging year for the property sector, and it's tough to predict how the market will prove in 2021. Despite the ongoing Brexit unpredictability, the outlook for 2021 is largely positive. Industry experts are optimistic that Brexit is not likely to have much of an impact on the housing market in the short term. This year, the London property market will see Londoners continue to leave the capital while investment from overseas remains strong. Tenant demand will begin to increase and, by the end of the year, the rate of rental decline will have slowed.

The London Exodus

The COVID crisis sparked a London exodus, with a sudden scramble to purchase homes on the outskirts of the capital. As the pandemic forced most of the nation to work from home, more and more people chose to leave London.   As a result, commuter belts have widened around London and all major cities.

In 2021, the trend is set to continue with more Londoners realising the potential of working from a rural home or commuting once or twice a week. Estate agency Hamptons forecasts that the London exodus will continue for at least the first half of the new year but may slow down as house prices flatline.

Foreign Investment

Foreign investment in the capital is predicted to maintain strong levels in 2021.

Foreign investment from around the globe forms a significant share of London's property business. Despite the challenges London is facing, investors abroad have not forgotten the long-term appeal. Recent reports state London is the second-best place for property investment in Europe. The capital had climbed two spots from the previous year's 'Emerging Trends in Real Estate' report (PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Urban Land Institute). 

Local and foreign investors alike have been closing on prime property during the stamp duty holiday. Many are raring to close deals before the additional 2% tax returns for international buyers in April. However, many industry experts are confident that the charge will not deter foreign investment.

Renters and Landlords in the Capital

In 2021, the tenancy market may improve in London.

Renters in London were at a shortage in 2020 as tenants encountered financial challenges. Job uncertainty, furlough wage reductions, and redundancies had their effect on the London rented sector. Supply increased substantially in the capital, and some landlords had to accept lower rent to avoid void periods. Central London saw rent fall by 20%, according to statistics from estate agents Chestertons. Other prime London locations saw 15% decreases, and rental prices in Greater London lessened by 4%.

This year, the number of properties available to rent will likely decline. Once restrictions begin to lift, demand is likely to pick up, and the rate of rental decline will lag. If this year sees the economy recover as anticipated, rent will likely resume growth over the course of 2022.


David Beard

David Beard Comment - From Lending Expert - "Second Charge Lenders Still Have a Good Appetite"

Second charge lenders still have a good appetite, explains David Beard, the founder of Lending Expert, one of the UK's leading price comparison websites.

Beard explains that whilst the UK is in its third lockdown, the housing market remains open and property valuations can still take place, allowing applications to be processed and deals to be completed across second charge loans, mortgages, bridging loans and more.

 

David Beard, founder of Lending Expert, explained:

“While business levels were quite significantly effected during the first national lockdown in March 2020, it’s now “business as usual” during this third lockdown for the secured loans industry.” 

“January 2021 is showing that many second charge lenders still have a good appetite to lend and borrowing rates and products have mostly remained unchanged. The key differences to note are during this third national lockdown is that the housing market has remained open and lenders are able to instruct surveyors for home valuations which is critical to successfully carry out secured lending and mortgage applications.”

“This time round there is no restriction on physical valuations and for over a decade the industry has offered a huge range of products available using Hometrack or similar desktop valuation models.”

 

david beard lending expert
David Beard believes that second charge lending will thrive, despite the third lockdown

 

Stamp duty deadline also likely to play a role

With the upcoming stamp duty deadline of 31st March 2021, this will certainly play a role in boosting mortgage applications and deals in Q1. With those properties under £500,000 in the UK incurring zero stamp duty, there is certainly an incentive for first-time buyers, homeowners and developers to make an application or complete on a purchase, giving them a saving of £15,000.

With the deadline around 8 weeks away, this will certainly be a busy time for borrowers, brokers and lenders and this will continue to drive the second charge and general mortgage market, certainly in Q1.

What remains after in Q2 is yet to be determined and it could result in a major house pricing crash or a surge in house prices too.

 

About second charges

Second charge loans are used by developers and homeowners as a way to raise additional funds on an existing mortgage. The amount you can borrow is a little less than your first mortgage and it is known as a second charge because it is the second priority after your first mortgage has been paid. For developers, second charges are used to pay off existing debts, renovations, building work or finance a new property. For homeowners, second mortgages are often used to raise funds for debt consolidation, school fees, weddings and more. There is always a risk of repossession if you cannot repay your loan on time, or you may have to give up equity in your first original property to the outstanding lender.

 


tax holiday ends

Is there still time to buy before the stamp duty holiday ends?

It may still be possible for buyers to take advantage of the stamp duty holiday before it ends. The stamp duty holiday will end on the 31st of March, and buyers looking to take advantage of this opportunity may be worried that it's too late. 

Thousands set to miss out on the tax holiday

The spike in interest from buyers due to the break has caused too much demand to keep up with in some areas. Buyers searching in popular locations are faced with a lack of properties of the right price range. If they are able to find a suitable property, due to the explosive demand, there are significant processing delays in getting sales through. 

Property experts warn that many buyers may be set to miss out on the £15,000 tax saving when their sale is delayed past the deadline. The rush to take advantage of the stamp duty holiday has created a staggering backlog in regulating mortgages, valuations and conveyancing. As a result, sales that were expected to take place this month may not be complete before the holiday expires. The likelihood is that thousands will be disappointed to find that they cannot complete by the 31st of March.

Calls for the tax break to be extended

There have been calls on chancellor Rishi Sunak to extend the holiday in the face of this backlog. However, the government has responded stating assertively that the deadline will not be prolonged.

Is there still time to get a sale through before the deadline? 

If you are looking to buy a property fast to take advantage of the tax break, you may still have a chance. It helps if you are fully prepared in terms of your mortgage and surveyor. If possible, you may consider employing a mortgage broker to chase any delays on your behalf. Ideally, to complete quickly, you will have no property chain to slow the process down. Brand new homes and chain free buyers get through matters faster. Purchasing a new-build home via Help to Buy could improve your chances of meeting the deadline.

However, in reality, if you haven't had your offer accepted before the end of the year, it will be hard to complete before the March deadline. Finance, surveys, and conveyancing can take up to 12 weeks.

What if you miss the cut-off date? 

There is no need to be discouraged if you do miss the cut-off date. Some experts suggest that you may, in fact, be better off waiting on your property purchase. While your tax bill will go up in April, demand is likely to begin to cool off. As the frenzy calms, you might be able to negotiate on the asking price to find an even better deal on your new home.


central-london-property

Will A Covid Vaccine Bring Back Central London Property Prices?

During the coronavirus pandemic, house prices in central London challenged expectations by declining in value. House prices in the prime location fell 1.6 per cent compared to last year. This is partially due to decreased demand with post-lockdown buyers fleeing urban metropoles in search of the countryside, larger properties for home working, and gardens. City-lovers continue to question the advantages of living in the heart of a city where the buzz is on pause. Theatres, galleries, restaurants, clubs and bars have not been in normal practise for close to a year. A swift commute to work is not the luxury it used to be when you're working from home 80% of the year. A central studio flat is also not an ideal space to act like a home, office, cinema, gym and more.

What difference could a vaccine make?

The City Buzz

The announced vaccine has the power to restore the London buzz and vibrancy that allures people to the city in the first place. As entertainment industries reopen, the hope is that the bustle will return perhaps with a new-found vigour in its revitalisation. 

"The real challenge for London's prime market is supporting buyer demand and attracting buyers willing to pay more to be in a buzzing city full of all the entertainment venues, restaurants, theatres, etc. that they have come to expect. It's difficult to put a number on it but prices are definitely looking rosier with a vaccine than without next year and beyond," says Marcus Dixon of LonRes.

The Workplace Commute

As workplaces get back to normal without the fear of infection, the commute will return and boost the city centre housing market. Knight Frank's Tom Bill thinks that the one-bedroom city-centre flat which has fallen out of favour, could then be revitalised.

"If you look at one-bedroom flats in urban locations that have perhaps fallen out of favour in the past months, it's quite a good time if you're a buyer or investor to look at those. These are the types of early signifiers that smart money reacts to and further down the line rest of the market following suit."

Pied-a-Terre Properties

The central one-bed properties are likely to be snapped up by a growing group of buyers who have recently left London. Those who headed for nature are likely to find themselves needing to commute more often than expected from their country homes. These now comparatively good-value properties will serve buyers looking for a temporary place to rest their head, according to Central London agents. With a tidy sum left over from the move from the capital to the country, the pied-a-terre market is expected to grow. 


green-mortgage

Eco-Friendly 'Green Mortgages' To Become The Norm

Recently, the UK population becoming increasingly eco-conscious has allowed 'green mortgages' to find their place in the mainstream market. They offer borrowers preferential rates directly linked to the energy performance of their properties. As a result, it gives home buyers and investors an extra impetus to look at newer, more eco-friendly properties to keep costs down.

What Are Green Mortgage Products?

The fact that many of us are aware of what these product options are is one of its most significant struggles. The sector offers better-rate mortgages for properties with eco-friendly energy performances. Therefore, in practice, if you are choosing to buy an energy-efficient property, your mortgage rates will be better! 

Research from Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association (IMLA)found that 43% of borrowers hadn't heard of Green MOrtgages. More than a third of borrowers also wrongly believed green mortgages would cost more. The statistics show that around 77% of eco-aware lenders offer green products that are equal to or cheaper than a standard mortgage. Currently, only a relatively small number of lenders provide green mortgages, but the survey saw 29% planning to introduce such a product. A further 35% of agents also plan to advise buyers on green mortgages in future.

Why Are 'Green Mortgages' Becoming Popular?

As of yet, there are only a few lenders in the UK offering better-than-normal rates on eco-friendly properties. However, a growing trend for eco-friendly products across sectors has provided an added incentive for investors. When focussing on eco-trends, it is evident that this is a growing one, with more people becoming dedicated to doing their part against the devastating effects of climate change. This entices more buyers to steer towards eco-friendly products and properties. There are plenty of indicators that eco-friendly mortgage products will improve in number. Lenders and advisers alike are beginning to recognise the potential of green mortgages and advise buyers accordingly.  

The effects of the Covid-19 lockdown may have spurred this by providing a glimpse of a world with reduced carbon emissions. As a result, the growth of green finance is sure to continue to accelerate. The IMLA also reported that 74% of lenders think green mortgages will be more significant in the finance sector in future, and increased interest has already been noted since the pandemic outbreak.

The reasons for this growth in popularity are vast and varied, but most regard either the environmental or financial factors. Some buyers wish to improve their carbon footprint by living in a more environmentally friendly property. However, cost savings entice more than half (53%) of consumers. 

What Issues Does The Green Market Face?

Eco-friendly properties face the problem of cost when going green. 27% of property owners agree that affordability is an issue for them. Many investors do not find it worth the price of improving energy efficiency. To combat this, the Government has created The Green Homes Grant which could act as a great incentive. Green mortgages work as a great alternative option for customers, but there are considerable barriers which still stand in the way towards growing the green finance sector. The Government has committed to making Britain carbon-neutral by 2050 and, to do so, the existing housing stock will have to make changes to create more energy-efficient homes. 

 


first-time-buyers

Will First-Time Buyers Set To Receive Low-Deposit Mortgage Deals?

Prime Minister Boris Johson has pledged 95% mortgages for two million first-time buyers. The Government unveiled plans for 'generation buy' at a virtual Conservative Party conference. The Prime Minister said: "We need now to take forward one of the key proposals of our manifesto of 2019: giving young, first-time buyers the chance to take out a long-term, fixed-rate mortgage of up to 95 percent of the value of the home — vastly reducing the size of the deposit."

 

How Will It Work?

The Government has revealed intentions to make 95% mortgages more extensively available for first-time buyers, but it is still uncertain how the proposals would work. The Prime Minister discussed the issue facing two million prospective first-time buyers who could afford to pay mortgage repayments but are having difficulty getting approved for a home loan. He believes the Government has a role to play in unlocking low-deposit loans to generate 'the biggest expansion of homeownership since the 1980s'.

The proposal is also reminiscent of government-backed low-deposit mortgage schemes introduced after the 2008 crash. A similar program was launched as part of the Help to Buy plan during the 2008 recession because of banks withdrawing their high loan-to-value mortgage products. Previously, there were 100 percent loans on offer for buyers.

The Government has not released any details on how the scheme might work. According to a report by The Telegraph, one prospective design is for banks to get rid of the rigorous stress tests that were introduced after the financial crash. Rather than the stress tests, the Government could impose a guarantee for these higher loans. This would remove the risk placed on lenders, allowing them to offer low-deposit loans without worry. The tests are designed to assess whether a buyer will keep up mortgage repayments should interest rates rise from their current rate of 0.1%.

 

How Could The Scheme Help First-Time Buyers?

Boris Johnson said that the scheme will help up to two million people who can afford mortgage repayments but can't currently find home loans. While high loan-to-value mortgages were widely offered at the begging of this year, the COVID lockdown caused many lenders to withdraw their products. Banks and building societies were inundated with a backlog of inquiries when the housing market reopened, and some became overwhelmed with the demand. The decision to remove the low-deposit mortgages may have been due to economic uncertainty - as the economy walks a tightrope many lenders wish to distance themselves from providing riskier loans. 

In theory, first-time buyers will be able to buy with a five percent deposit once again under the new proposals. The result hopes to "turn Generation Rent into Generation Buy." However, buyers should still be aware of the possible risks that remain. When you buy a property with a low deposit, there is often a greater risk of negative equity if the property market doesn't rise but instead declines. 


bridging-rates-fall-50%

Dan Kettle Comments on Bridging Volumes

According to the latest report by Bridging Trends, bridging volumes halved during Q2 as a result of the covid-19 lockdown. £79.4m worth of bridging deals were completed from May to July 2020, down from £184m in the same period of 2019 and from £123m in Q1 2020.

As a result, in the six months to the end of June 2020, bridging volumes declined by £168m to £202m, compared to £370m in the first half of 2019 - something that brokers and lenders considered as 'inevitable' given the circumstances.

How bridging fell by 50% in Q2

Bridging interest rates rose during the period, perhaps reflecting the increased risk and more limited product availability during the period.

The average weighted monthly interest rate in Q2 2020 increased to 0.85 per cent – up from 0.8 per cent in Q1 and 0.75 per cent in Q4 2019. This is the highest average monthly interest rate recorded in Bridging Trends data since Q3 2016. Investment purchase and re-bridging saw notable increases as the reason for borrowers accessing bridging finance.

A quarter of deals were completed for investment, up from 20 per cent in Q1, while 13 per cent were as re-bridges, up from 8% between January and March.

In contrast, chain breaks made up just one in 10 bridging deals, down from 20 per cent in Q1, while heavy refurbishment dropped from 13 per cent of transactions to 10 per cent.

Dan Kettle of Octagon Capital commented: “The drop in bridging volumes is unsurprising. During the covid-19 lockdown, very little action could really take place, since there was no property valuations, certainly no auctions and most lenders had temporarily turned off their lending.”

“But that does not mean that things won’t improve. There has been real enthusiasm to get deals done and get out there at the moment, especially whilst covid-19 threats are relatively low and if a second wave comes back to bite us.”