When comparing mortgages, you might think your best bet is to seek out a deal from one of the biggest and best-known mortgage lenders. However, the mortgage market is highly competitive and some of the smaller, lesser-known lenders may well have better deals available, depending on what you’re looking for.
When it comes to the availability of deals from the largest UK mortgage lenders, not all of them have a full range of mortgage options, especially if you’re looking for something a big more niche, such as a mortgage for self-employed borrowers, or to buy an unusual property.
When we talk about the largest or biggest mortgage lenders, we are usually referring to those that have a history of lending the most money, or having the most customers (market share). On that basis, according to recent mortgage statistics, the largest UK mortgage providers are:
NatWest (including Royal Bank of Scotland or RBS)
This corresponds with the list of the UK’s ‘big four’ banks: Lloyds, Barclays, NatWest and HSBC.
Although our instinct is often to seek out the biggest names in any industry when we’re looking to make a purchase, with mortgages, this is not always the best route. The type of lender most likely to be able to offer you the type of mortgage you need will depend largely on your current circumstances, and what your future priorities are for your home and finances.
Specialist mortgage lenders typically have more experience in lending to freelancers or those with a limited credit history, for example, and therefore have better knowledge and more understanding of the risks. Many will tailor their product range to cater for applicants that the larger banks won’t be able to assist.
On the other hand, the biggest mortgage lenders are more calculated and thorough when checking to see whether your application should be approved. They can sometimes have quite a narrow perception of the type of client that they are looking to serve, and this can mean criteria are stricter.
It depends which way you look at it, as ‘the best’ is a relative term, depending on what’s important to you. For some people, the best mortgage provider will be one that can offer them the most competitive interest rates. Others might value the most flexible terms, the best customer service, or the ones willing to lend them the most money!
Comparing mortgages is complicated and it’s hard to know what the best deal for your circumstances is without scouring the entire market. As well as being time consuming, without knowledge of the industry, it’s easy to overlook factors that may affect how suitable each mortgage actually is for your needs.
The type of mortgage you want is also a factor in deciding which bank you choose. Some banks have better deals on fixed rate mortgages, while some have good rates on tracker or variable rate mortgages.
In some cases, speaking to a mortgage broker might be your best option. A mortgage broker can make it easier to search all of the deals available, simply due to the sheer number of deals available. There are some other benefits of using a broker versus searching online by yourself or going to your own bank, however, and these include:
Banks are unlikely to be impartial and can only offer you deals that they offer, whereas mortgage brokers are bound by financial regulations to help you find a mortgage that is suitable for you and your circumstances
Some of the more specialist lenders will only work through an intermediary (usually a broker) which means that you would not be able to access their deals as a member of the public
Brokers deal with mortgages every day so often have valuable experience and knowledge that the average person doesn’t have. This can be helpful when you’re looking to avoid certain terms, or have very specific needs
Every single lender has their own specific set of criteria for each mortgage product that they offer, so it’s impossible to list criteria that will apply across the board.
That said, the vast majority of mortgage providers will carry out both credit and affordability checks when you apply for a mortgage. Larger lenders tend to be slightly less flexible with these checks than more specialist lenders and will usually be looking for clean credit scores and standard 9-5 salaried income.
Bad credit and self-employed mortgages from top mortgage lenders
If you have low or bad credit, are self-employed this could limit the type of mortgage lender that’s able to help you. There are also a variety of other reasons that you might need to approach a specific type of lender, rather than just the biggest or most recognisable name. These include, but are not limited to:
If you need to apply for a mortgage with a guarantor, if you perhaps don’t have a deposit, or are on a low income
If you want to buy a non-standard construction property - this is typically anything that isn’t a standard brick and mortar house and could include timber framed buildings, listed buildings, or flats above retail premises
If you’re nearing retirement age
If you want to build your own home
If you’re a high-net-worth individual
If you’re a portfolio landlord
There are plenty of specialist lenders that are happy to help customers in all of these circumstances, however, it’s just a case of finding the right one for you.