It’s been a few months since I last wrote about Brexit and its likely impact on interest rates, the mortgage sector and the residential property market. That was not long after the deadline for the UK to leave the EU was extended to the end of October. So, now that we’re roughly halfway between the last deadline and this one, what’s changed? On the one hand, nothing much has changed at all. There’s no more clarity now on how we’ll leave the bloc (or even, perhaps, if we’ll leave) than there was three months ago. But politically-speaking, on the other hand, everything has changed. We have a new Prime Minister working with an even more slender majority than his predecessor and leading a party that, if anything, is more divided than it has been at any point since the EU referendum. He chairs a cabinet that is loudly pro-Leave and, publicly at least, completely aligned to taking the UK out of Europe on October 31 come what may. Outside the inner sanctum of the cabinet, former senior ministers warn of chaos ahead if Britain is allowed to crash out of Europe without a deal, while the apparatchiks of central and local government ramp up their preparations for No Deal. Labour is said to be planning a vote of no confidence in a bid to force a General Election. The Liberal Democrats have a new leader in Jo Swinson, and her fiercely pro-Remain party is attracting membership applications from former Tory MPs, disillusioned with their brief stint as part of the Change UK party. All in all, things have certainly been better within Great Britain PLC. But what does the uncertainty mean if you’ve got a mortgage or you’re thinking of buying and/or selling your home? Naturally, it depends on what you read, who you listen to and whether you’re on the Winnie the Pooh or Eeyore side of the optimism/pessimism divide. But amid the more outlandish crystal ball-gazing, there have been some interesting and well-informed hypotheses doing the rounds recently. The general consensus seems to be that a No Deal Brexit would substantially increase the chances of an economic downturn. Some commentators have stopped short of predicting a full-on recession, but others haven’t been quite as shy. According to the Guardian’s personal finance and consumer correspondents, this may not be a bad thing for homeowners where interest rates are concerned. Their joint article talks of mortgage interest rates returning to their sub-1% levels of 2016 and even of the Bank of England imposing a zero rate to ease the transition to a new trade arrangement with the rest of the world. Such a move would undoubtedly be welcomed by homeowners who suddenly find their mortgage rates significantly reduced. But the other side of that coin, of course, is the resulting misery for savers and investors. As for house prices and whether now is the time to buy or sell, the same article suggests that trying to predict whether to move before or after October 31 is more likely to be a lottery. Having said that, the fact remains that if you consider your finances to be insulated from the immediate impact of Brexit – whether with or without a deal – then when you move is less of an issue. The only question at that point is whether you can sweeten the process by winning out on the price at which you agree to buy and securing the market value of the house you sell. The Daily Mail’s financial website This Is Money reports that there’s been a growth in the appetite for long-term mortgage deals, including the recently-trending 10 year fixed product some lenders are offering. As I said in our recent article on whether you should fix your mortgage rate, we’d advise caution when it comes to locking on to a long-term deal. They tend to be more expensive and if rates do come down – which is a distinct possibility over a period of a decade – then you’re going to lose out in the long run. There are circumstances where a long-term fixed product might be right for you – but I would strongly advise getting advice from a professional mortgage expert before you commit. And then there are the conflicting calls in the Express and Times for the Bank of England to either raise interest rates and demonstrate its commitment to – and confidence in – Brexit (Express), or cut rates ahead of Brexit to ease the impact on the economy (Times). So, even the papers are divided on the best approach to fiscal policy. The fact is, we won’t have true clarity until October 31 arrives. In the meantime, the world keeps turning and life goes on. My advice is always that you should take any long-term financial decision – such as buying a house – in the context of your long-term financial security, and ultimately that comes down to the answer to the question of whether your potential financial exposure is controllable. Any investment is a risk – but calculated risks, where you’ve looked at the worst-case scenarios and demonstrated you can survive them, are always going to be preferable to walking into a commitment blind. The best thing you can do if you’re thinking about moving in the next three months is get some advice from a professional broker and a financial adviser – and factor that advice into your decision. Need more information about your mortgage options? Take a look at our short guide to remortgaging. To find out more about our friendly and professional mortgage service, fees and what we can do to help make sure you’re not paying over the odds for your mortgage, why not visit www.oportfolio.co.uk or give us a call on 020 7371 5063. Oportfolio Limited is an appointed representative of Primis Mortgage Network, a trading name of First Complete Limited which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority Your property may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage. Oportfolio Ltd fees are payable on application. We charge a broker fee for property purchases of £495 and a remortgage/further advance fee of £395. Our product transfer fee is £295.
Anyone who’s looking to get their foot on the first rung of the housing ladder or has just managed to find their way onto it will know that being a first-time-buyer can be an extremely challenging and stressful time. You’d almost have had to have been living under a rock to have missed the fact that the turbulence of the last post-financial crisis decade has made the lending environment a darned sight tougher than it was for the previous two or three generations. But it’s not just the rigour of affordability tests that you’ll have to contend with as a first-time-buyer. You’re also going to feel hamstrung by your lack of experience in the market, and that’s something that many people underestimate when they set out to buy their first house. But first things first. Let’s deal with the first obstacle. Deposit & Affordability The simple fact is that whether this is the first house you’ve bought or the fiftieth, you’re going to have to prove to prospective lenders that you can pay back the money you want to borrow. This is the first and most important hurdle you’ll need to clear – if your lender decides you can’t afford the repayments, then everything else is immaterial. And if you can’t buy the house on your own? Well, there are still options available to you. Some lenders now offer products that allow a family member to guarantee or underwrite the repayments. Or, it could be that you know other people who might be prepared to buy the property jointly with you and view their share of the ownership as a long-term investment. In both cases, though, it’s wise to get professional advice to make sure you don’t find yourself under pressure to sell quickly and unexpectedly in the future. There are now more mortgage products on the market that will allow you to borrow the entire cost of a property – these are known as 100% mortgages. But attractive as these may be, consider them carefully because there are downsides (e.g. it’s easier to fall into negative equity if you have no capital tied up in your home). In any event, the more attractive mortgage products that will be available to you are likely to require you to put up some of the cost yourself in the form of a deposit – and having something to put down also reassures the lender that you recognise scale of the financial commitment you’re making. Making a mortgage application You could apply for your mortgage online or in a lender’s branch. But it would probably serve your best interests to talk to an independent mortgage broker to get access to products you won’t be able to find yourself. There are very clear benefits to working with a professional mortgage broker. At Oportfolio, for example, we’ll advise you on affordability, the best way to structure your loan and the benefits of each product you might want to consider – but we’ll also look after your application from the point you start to the point you receive your mortgage offer and beyond. You’ll need to have quite a bit of personal information to hand to complete your application, but your broker will walk you through that, too. If you’ve already found a property you love, the estate agent you’re dealing with may push you to make an appointment with their in-house or preferred mortgage adviser. The only thing to know here is that there’s no obligation for you to do that unless you want to. It’s a good idea to get a mortgage offer in principle before you start house hunting. Most agreements in principle are valid for between 60 and 90 days, giving you a good amount of time to find a property and make an offer. Making an offer So, you’ve got a mortgage agreed in principle and you’ve found your dream home. How do you work out what to offer? To some extent, of course, you’re going to be constrained by the amount you’ve been told you can borrow. If you’re like most of us, you’ll probably have been including in your search properties that are slightly out of your budget in the hope you might be able to get a lower offer accepted. This is where your agreement in principle comes in handy, because as a first-time-buyer with no chain and a mortgage already approved, you’re going to be more attractive to a seller who needs to shift their property to get the upper chain moving. To get a real sense of how much the house you want is worth, do some research. Find out what similar properties in the area have sold for in the recent past. What motivates a homeowner to sell is hard to guess. They may need to sell their property at the very top of its value to make their own step up the ladder. They may have priced their home to sell quickly because they’ve seen something they like and want to move fast. Or they may just be testing the market and are prepared to wait for the right offer. In the end, though, a house is only ever worth what someone’s prepared to pay for it – so knowing your own limit will allow you to make a confident offer. Oh no – my offer has been rejected! You really want the house, but the current owner has said no to your offer. Although this is disappointing, it’s not the end of the world. You have two options – either increase your offer if you can afford to (but it’s good practice to know the price beyond which you will not go) or walk away and find something else you love. The survey suggests there’s a problem This can be a minefield. If the problem is serious, it may prevent you from securing your mortgage (which will have been offered in principle on the basis the property you want to buy is sound). If it’s not a problem so serious as to be a dealbreaker, then can you afford to make the necessary repairs? Alternatively, can you use the problem to renegotiate your offer and then talk to your mortgage lender to see if you can use part of the loan agreed in principle to carry out the repairs. Again, a professional mortgage broker can help you here. There are few problems which are insurmountable in a property deal, but knowing how to circumnavigate the bumps in the road is easier when you have sound advice to work with. Remember, too, that you will need to appoint a solicitor or specialist conveyancer to take care of the legal stuff related to your purchase. Your mortgage broker will probably know someone they’re happy to recommend – but also ask for recommendations from friends and family. Above all, enjoy yourself – finding and buying your dream home should be an adventure, not a chore! Watch our video for first-time buyers and get a headstart on the things you need to consider when you start looking for your first home. To find out more about our friendly and professional mortgage service, fees and what we can do to help make sure you’re not paying over the odds for your mortgage, why not visit www.oportfolio.co.uk or give us a call on 020 7371 5063. Oportfolio Limited is an appointed representative of Primis Mortgage Network, a trading name of First Complete Limited which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority Your property may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage. Oportfolio Ltd fees are payable on application. We charge a broker fee for property purchases of £495 and a remortgage/further advance fee of £395. Our product transfer fee is £295.
If you search on the web for advice on the things you should do when choosing a mortgage, you’ll get a lot of information back. Some of it’s good, some of it not so good. But as important, if not more so, is what you should avoid doing. Here’s our guide to the mistakes you’d do well to avoid making. Don’t approach your hunt for a mortgage in the same way you would if you were buying a washing machine We know that sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised at the almost laissez-faire way a good many people approach the business of securing the finance to buy their home. Put simply, buying a home is a huge investment – and almost certainly the largest single purchase you’ll have made in your life at that point. It’s fine to buy a washing machine from Amazon or another online retailer. If it doesn’t work, you send it back. If you realise there was a better model you could have bought, it’s not a calamitous financial mistake to have to live with. Choose the wrong mortgage provider or product, however, and you could be paying for it – literally – for years. Don’t obsess about the interest rate We’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating. If the only thing you’re looking at is the interest rate, then the chances are you’re missing a trick. Yes, how much you’re going to pay each month is important and so that means the rate is a factor in your decision – but it’s not the only factor. Is the rate fixed or variable? If it’s fixed, how long is it fixed for? Are there early exit fees? Is there an arrangement fee? Will you be able to overpay if you want to, and if so, by how much? Just as importantly, is the mortgage provider reputable and do you believe you’ll get good support and care during the lifetime of the loan? The days of personal 121 contact with an account manager may be over, but your relationship with your lender remains just as important today as it always did. Don’t chase lower rates at the expense of lender reputation Even if you do put a lot of store by the interest rates on offer from lenders, they don’t always tell the whole story. If you saw what looked like two very similar cars on offer from two different dealers, and one was significantly cheaper than the other, you might be tempted to buy the cheaper of the two. But it’s always worth taking pause for thought. There could be legitimate reasons for two apparently identical mortgages being offered at different rates of interest. It could be that one lender is squeezing as much margin out of the loan as possible to maximise profit. Equally, it might be that they’re a bigger, more well-established and reputable lender, with bigger overheads and a better overall service. Don’t take a mortgage from an unregulated lender If you do nothing else (and we hope you’ll do a lot more than this), don’t take a mortgage with an unregulated lender, because when things go wrong, you have no easy recourse to get them put right. Unregulated lenders aren’t subject to the same lending standards as regulated banks and building societies and don’t offer the same protection. Do your homework and ensure your lender is reputable and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. If you’re in any doubt at all, hit the pause button and reconsider. Use a professional mortgage broker If you only follow this final – and, we’d obviously argue, most important - rule, you’ll also avoid making the first four mistakes, too. A good, professional mortgage broker will also be regulated – giving you protection against bad advice – and will know the market inside out. They’ll know what deals are available, what products will best suit your circumstances (not just today, but in the longer term, based on your priorities and ambitions) and the lenders who can offer you the best options for buying your home. At Oportfolio, we’re mortgage experts regulated by FCA and with years of success behind us – so if you’re ready to take the next step in your property journey, we’re ready to help you. Want to know how other clients felt about working with Oportfolio? Watch Gus and Selena’s video story! To find out more about our friendly and professional mortgage service, fees and what we can do to help make sure you’re not paying over the odds for your mortgage, why not visit www.oportfolio.co.uk or give us a call on 020 7371 5063. Your property may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage. Oportfolio Ltd fees are payable on application. We charge a broker fee for property purchases of £495 and a remortgage/further advance fee of £395. Our product transfer fee is £295.
It’s always lovely when the values you promote as a business are recognised publicly, so there was open delight at Oportfolio when the company’s founder, Oliver Whitehead, was named Best Overall Adviser at the recent Primis awards ceremony. It was Oliver’s third year of success at the awards, which recognise and celebrate the best UK mortgage and protection advisers and are organised by Primis – one of the biggest networks of financial services brokerages in the UK. His award this year saw him retain the Overall Adviser award he won in 2018, a year after being named Top Mortgage Adviser in 2017. The accolade serves as a ringing endorsement for the very simple principle that underpins Oliver’s approach to Oportfolio, a business he started 11 years ago following a decade in financial services, running his own mortgage brokerage and as a Director at Alexander Hall. Oliver said: “Ultimately what we strive to do is look after people in the same way we would want to be looked after ourselves. It’s that ethos of wanting to help people and to go the extra mile in doing it.” In the end, this month’s award is ongoing reward for a seed which was planted back in 1998 when Oportfolio first opened its doors and welcomed its first client – that the values and ethics that the company is built on should run through the veins of everyone who has ever worked there or will ever work there. Building a company in your own image is no easy feat and, as Oliver himself observes, providing high quality service has become something of a dying art for many companies. But by doing things the right way from the start, the process has got easier as the business has grown and its client base has increased. There’s also the fact that Oliver insists that the first contact the company has with a potential client is as good as the last contact. He makes a point of responding personally and immediately, wherever possible, to an initial query. You might think that’s obvious, yet this proactive approach isn’t as common as you might imagine. What that translates into in most cases is a sense in the person on the other end of the phone that they’re being looked after and are in safe hands. “I know that when people get in touch with us, what they’re really looking for is reassurance. They simply want some love and to know that the people they’re talking to not only know how to help them, but actively want to help them. “In the end, that’s what my business has always been about – the desire to help people and to do that in the right way.” Oliver concedes that his own determination and commitment to deliver a consistently superior level of service is partly behind not just the awards success, but also Oportfolio’s continued growth and high client retention rates. “That has to be a part of it, yes,” he admits. “although you can never completely replicate yourself in other people. “But experience and knowledge also plays a big part. The whole team here is completely aware of the process that lies behind applying for a mortgage. We know it can be an anxious or worrying time – but our job is to take that worry away, to reassure them that with our help it wont be as stressful as it may seem to them.” Knowing the market inside out and understanding which banks will be prepared to lend what amount under what circumstances is a big part of being a successful brokerage, of course. But it’s where circumstances aren’t straightforward that is where Oliver expects Oportfolio to earn its stripes. “That’s where the hard work is done,” he says. “In finding solutions to the problems we come across so that the people we’re helping still achieve what they set out to achieve.” All of which means that the awards that currently sit on Oportfolio’s shelves are much appreciated by Oliver and his team – but are really symbols of the hard work done in the past, and a reminder that the same level of commitment to the great service is required today, tomorrow and beyond. To find out more about our friendly and professional mortgage service, fees and what we can do to help make sure you’re not paying over the odds for your mortgage, why not visit www.oportfolio.co.uk or give us a call on 020 7371 5063. Your property may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage. Oportfolio Ltd fees are payable on application. We charge a broker fee for property purchases of £495 and a remortgage/further advance fee of £395. Our product transfer fee is £295.