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Latest mortgage news

An up-to-date feed of the latest mortgage news of interest to home buyers, homeowners and property investors alike...

18 April 2024: This week in mortgages

Again a fairly static week for average rates, lenders both increasing and decreasing their deals have likely maintained this balance. Whereas Santander and TSB have both made reductions on some of their fixed-rate options, Bank of Ireland have increased some of theirs. Virgin Money, on the other hand, has both reduced some deals and increased others in their range. 

While recent speculation was that the base rate would fall in June, many experts believe it could now be August, or even later when we finally start to see the base rate, and therefore, mortgage rates fall. This is largely due to ‘sticky inflation’ with only a small drop announced yesterday (from 3.4% to 3.2%), which it seems, has already impacted swap rates. 

This is likely to result in increased mortgage rate volatility in the coming weeks, so be sure to lock in favourable deals quickly, if you’re looking to remortgage soon. You can always switch deals again before your current fixed-term date ends, should you find something better by then.

House prices seem to be following inflation and interest rate trends, and show minimal signs of a dramatic fall. ONS (The office for national statistics) reported that the average UK property price fell by 0.2% in the 12 months since February 2023, but has risen 0.4% in the first quarter of 2024. 

It’s perhaps, therefore, unsurprising that one in five people surveyed by Censuswide recently, believed they wouldn’t own a property until they were in their forties. Most people cited high deposit requirements and mortgage affordability as the reason for this. However, there are more options than many people realise for first-time buyers looking to begin their home ownership journey, so be sure to speak to a broker before ruling it out completely.

05 April 2024: This week in mortgages

This week, we've seen a number of major lenders, such as Halifax, Santander and HSBC, in cutting both two and five year fixed-rate deals, following March's inflation news and base rate announcement.

While rates remain higher than many prospective buyers and remortgagers would want, the return of competition to the market has clearly had an impact on the industry to date, with the latest money and credit report from the Bank of England reporting that net mortgage approvals for both house purchase and remortgage are up in February. The report also highlights a fall in the effective interest rate on newly drawn mortgages to 4.50% - a decline of 0.29%.

99% mortgage product

Hitting the headlines this week, a new product from Yorkshire Building Society was launched with a set £5,000 deposit requirement. Aimed at first-time buyers, but not for use on flats or new-build properties, it potentially provides borrowers the option to borrow at 99% LTV (Loan to value). As the fee-free, £5000 deposit mortgage can be used on properties (up to) the value of £500,000, this would essentially make it 99% LTV if utilising the maximum borrowing. However, according to Zoopla, the average UK property is now £263,900 which would mean that a £5000 deposit would result in around 98% LTV borrowing.

Although this will be welcome news to many of those struggling to save a large deposit, do keep in mind the risks of borrowing at a high LTV, such as larger repayments and an increased risk of negative equity. If you plan to use a high LTV mortgage product, its' best to make monthly overpayments, where possible, to increase your equity more quickly.

19 March 2024: This week in mortgages

In the past week we’ve seen lenders continue to edge rates back upwards, ahead of the base rate announcement this Thursday (21 March). This is likely due to broad speculation across the industry that the Bank of England (BoE) will not reduce this base rate this time around. This will be unwanted news for the many homeowners with fixed-rate deals ending soon, many of whom are currently on rates of 3% or below, according to the Financial Conduct Authority.

Perhaps then, it’s a sign of the times that lenders are beginning to broaden their affordability criteria to help borrowers meet higher interest rate demands. For example, Santander has this week added Universal Credit as an acceptable secondary income source. We’ve also seen lenders, such as Halifax, extend their maximum age limits on mortgage applications. 

Some economists expect the first BoE base rate cut to come in May of this year. However, with rates being pulled increasingly quickly again, it’s a difficult decision whether to remortgage now or wait it out to see if this rings true in May. The average standard variable rate is still above 8.5%, so if your deal’s end date is imminent, it’s best to speak to a mortgage broker asap.

13 February 2024: This week in mortgages

Rates news

The market has returned to a slightly more volatile position following the base rate decision at the beginning of this month. Since the Bank of England decided to hold at 5.25%, some lenders began slightly increasing their fixed-rate deals, largely on the assumption that the static base rate indicated rates staying higher for longer. Since then, swap rates have also begun to rise, meaning more and more lenders have reversed recent rate cuts, as the price of borrowing increased for them. In fact, in the past week we've seen many of the 'big six' mortgage lenders push up their fixed rate deals, with Nationwide also raising their tracker rates by up to 0.25%.

Mortgage arrears rise

UK Finance has reported on a rise in arrears across both residential and buy-to-let mortgages over the past few months. In the last quarter of 2023, it highlighted a 7% rise in residential, and an 18% rise in buy-to-let mortgage areas.

Shared-ownership council

A small group of industry firms have funded the creation of a council with the aim of providing “a more transparent and consistent service offer for consumers in shared ownership schemes”.

This is following a large increase in shared ownership property purchase in recent years, but a contrary fall in consumer satisfaction from those taking on this type of mortgage and purchase.

Dutch-style mortgages hit the UK

New UK mortgage lender, April Mortgages, has raised interest in the industry with the introduction of their 'Dutch-style' mortgages. The firm, which is part of a broader Netherlands based group, DMFCO, currently only offers this option for remortgage customers, but plans to expand into the purchase market in April.

A 'Dutch-style' mortgage is so-named due to mimicking how many longer term fixed rate deals work on the continent. As well as offering longer fixes than the two and five year products typically offered in the UK, the interest rates reduces automatically in line with your LTV (loan-to-value) as you repay your loan. This reduces the need for frequent remortgages for many borrowers, saving both time and money.

01 February 2024: Base rate announcement

The Bank of England (BoE) took the decision to hold the base rate of interest at 5.25% today, in their first decision of 2024. This has now been held at the current rate since September 2023, with the last change made in August 2023 when it rose to 5.25%, a 16-year high. Despite maintaining this rate for a few months, many financial forecasters expect the BoE's monetary policy committee (MPC) to make cuts to the base rate later in the year, given the significant fall in inflation over the past few months.

Does this mean mortgage rates will fall?

Due to expectations of cuts later in 2024, many mortgage lenders had already begun reducing their rates ahead of today's announcement. Both big six lenders, such as Halifax and HSBC and a number of building societies have reduced their fixed-rate deals multiple times throughout January. Some now have selected products available at around 4%, and even slightly below that in certain circumstances.

However, it remains to be seen whether there will be further cuts to mortgage rates in the coming days as a result of today's decision. Some economists are predicting that the base rate won't fall until May or June, however, London Stock Exchange Group data shows that the base rate is largely expected to fall an entire percentage point, down to 4.25%, by the end of 2024.

Should I remortgage now or wait for further rate reductions?

As ever, when it comes to mortgages, it depends on your current circumstances. If rates and inflation continue to travel in their current direction, it's perfectly possible that lenders will be offering lower rates as a results than they are today, before the end of 2024.

However, if you're already on your lender's SVR (standard variable rate) and don't intend to move home any time soon, is it worth paying a considerably higher rate whilst you anticipate a reduction that is as yet uncertain?

The average SVR in the UK at the moment is still fairly high, at 8.74%, so if you've got a high mortgage balance, this could be having a real impact on your affordability. Especially when some of the better fixed and variable rate deals available at the moment are around half of that.

15 January 2024: This week in mortgages

Mortgage lenders are divided this week, as an increase in swap rates seems to have caused some lenders to reprice their recently reduced deals, whereas others are either holding fast with the rates announced in the previous weeks, or even making further reductions.

HSBC, for example, has committed to cut prices across some of their two, three and five-year fixed rate deals for both product transfers (including those wanting to increase their borrowing) as well as new customers, tomorrow (16 Jan). Co-op, on the other hand, pulled some of their recently reduced rates today - mostly those below 4% - and are repricing them to take into account recently fluctuating swap rates.

This sort of behaviour typically indicates that tougher competition is returning to the mortgage market, meaning it's even more important to compare mortgage deals, whether you're looking to remortgage or buy a new property.

Mortgage term increases

According to a report by Bowmore Financial Planning, 2023 saw a 13% increase in people taking out mortgages with terms longer than 30 years. This is a likely impact of the rising cost in monthly payments caused by the rate increases seen over 2022 and 2023.

While rates do now seem to be falling again, combined with other factors, such as a higher general cost of living, and rising property prices, affordability is tight for many taking out mortgages and remortgages in 2024. Extending the mortgage term can help to increase mortgage affordability, however, it does also increase the amount of interest you'll pay overall, the longer the mortgage term is.

Landlord news

According to a report by Hampton's Letting agency, a record number of landlords set up SPVs (Special purpose vehicles) to manage their buy-to-let portfolios in 2023. This is even more prominent given that the number of properties bought for BTL purposes fell in 2023.

While the popularity of limited company buy-to-let begun to increase back in 2016, following a change to the tax rules around claiming back landlord related costs, large increases in mortgage repayments those landlords remortgaging have seen over the past year has likely spurred on this activity.

There are a range of tax benefits to operating a rental portfolio as a business, rather than an individual. However, limited company purchase won't suit everyone, so it's a good idea to speak to a mortgage broker with knowledge and expertise in the buy-to-let market before going down this path.

08 January 2024: This week in mortgages

It's been a fairly positive start to the year in terms of mortgage rates, with many more rate cuts seen across both residential and buy to let mortgage deals, and an increase in the deals available overall to a 15 year high.

Some of the bigger lenders, such as NatWest have launched remortgage rates as low as 4.64% for a 2 year fixed-rate mortgage deal at 60% LTV via a broker. Today we've also seen smaller and more specialist lenders follow suite, with Virgin Money offering 2 year fixes as low as 4.57% at 65% LTV and 6.97% at 90% LTV.

While some economists are warning that the Bank of England (BoE) won't make any cuts to the base rate until 2025, an extensive survey carried out by the Times suggests that the majority (42.5%) now feel that at least 2 base rate cuts will be seen in 2024. The BoE has also released promising data suggesting that the market is recovering, with their December Money and Credit Report highlighting an increase in net remortgage approvals for from 24,000 in October to 27,000 in November.

Help for first time buyers

However, according to Yorkshire building society, it's not all positive news. They reported a decline in first-time buyer mortgages of a fifth in 2023 compared to the previous year - making it the lowest number since 2013.

While the Tory's have hinted at additional help for first-time buyers ahead of the election, at the moment, we are yet to see any progress beyond the extension to the mortgage guarantee scheme. That said, rates are falling, so if you're currently looking to take your first step onto the property ladder, it's worthwhile speaking to a broker, like our partners at Mojo mortgages, to see what's available to you.

14 December: Today's base rate announcement

Today the Bank of England held the base rate at 5.25% for the third time in a row. It's remained unchanged since August, when it was last increased by 0.25%, the last in a spate of 14 consecutive base rate rises which began back in December 2021.

In the past 2 years since then, the average two-year fix rose from 2.34% to 6.04% and average five-year fix from 2.64% to 5.65%, largely as a result of these base rate increases. The average SVR (standard variable rate) is currently 8.19%, almost double the 4.40% it sat at in December 2021.

The majority of economists expect that we'll see mortgage rates continue to fall next year as average swap rates have now fallen for five months in a row. Some even expect a 1 percent total cut in the base rate, with suggestions the base rate will fall as low as 4.25% by the end of 2024.

Ahead of the base rate announcement, lenders continued to cut fixed rates, which shows that this base rate announcement was also anticipated. The next base rate announcement will be on 1 February 2024.

Is now the time to fix? With SVRs still significantly higher than the average two-year fixed-rate deal, there's a tough decision to be made for those coming out of their initial deals this month. While rates are declining and base rate cuts are expected in 2024, it's unlikely they will be substantial enough to warrant staying on your SVR for months.

It's a good idea to take advice from an experienced broker before making a final decision on remortgaging. While it may be wise to be cautious when locking in a longer rate, depending on your circumstances, if your due to fall onto an SVR, rates on short fixes are worth comparing.

11 December: This week in mortgages

This week we've seen a continues decline in rates across two and five year deals, with average rates now sitting below 6% according to moneyfacts. There has also been an increase in the number of deals available overall, with over 700 deals now available at 90% LTV.

SVRs remain high, with the average rate still above 8%. So those mortgage holders with two or five year deals ending imminently may want to lock in a new rate sooner rather than later - despite suggestions that rates will now continue to fall, albeit gradually. The base rate announcement on 14th December should provide more insight into the direction of travel of mortgage rates going into January 2024.

Continued impact of rate hikes

Despite the continued downward trend in mortgage rates following the 15 continuous base rate hikes seen up until September, those customers who are still yet to remortgage from their much cheaper previous deals are still in for a large increase in repayments. 

With many still due to come out of two, and five year fixes that were taken at a time where average mortgage rates were much lower, The Bank of England’s latest Financial Stability Report has forecast that around 900,000 borrowers will experience mortgage shock.

They warn of monthly mortgage payment increases of around £240 on average - but 20% of those borrowers will see more than £1,000 rise in their costs.

Mortgage approvals

Mortgage approvals for house purchases increased to 47,400 in October, up from 43,700 in September, according to the latest figures in the Bank of England’s Money and Credit report. However, UK Finance reports that mortgage lending is likely to fall again in 2024.

Approvals for remortgaging also increased from 20,600 in September to 23,700 in October. The number of remortgages had fallen in previous months as more borrowers decided to take a product transfer deal with their existing lender.

Now that rates are starting to come down, it’s certainly worth comparing remortgage rates before you decide to stick with your current lender, as rates are becoming more competitive. Our broker partner, Mojo Mortgages, can help you with this. 

Property prices

This month a report by the building society association (BSA) showed that 33% of people believe that house prices will rise in 2024. However, the most recent Zoopla house price index reports a 1.2% fall in prices since the same time period last year. 

Rightmove has also reported a house price fall of 7% in December, compared to November 2023. While there is typically a decline in December, this is a larger decline than the average.

That said, there is hope for 2024, with most industry experts believing that the market could be stimulated by a continued fall in mortgage rates. In fact, national chartered surveyors firm, e.surv produced this report, highlighting the resilience of first-time buyers in the current market.


Despite continued rising rental costs in the private rental sector, particularly smaller independent landlords are leaving the market rapidly, largely as a result of the narrow profit margins currently possible with a smaller property portfolio.

In fact, according to a survey of more than 1,000 clients of the Deposit Protection Service (DPS), landlords with two or fewer properties plan to leave the rental market at twice the rate of those with more than 10 properties.

Landlords with portfolios larger than 10 properties are also almost 10% more likely to increase their portfolio, than those with more modest property ownership.

28 November: Will The Leasehold and Freehold reform bill impact the housing market?

Many homeowners will welcome The Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill, which was introduced in Parliament yesterday. The reform enforces a ban on any further leaseholds on houses in the UK. 

It also seeks to minimise the cost associated with extending existing leases, while increasing the default lease extension length to 990 years (from the current 99 years).

There are currently around 4.7 million leasehold dwellings in the UK, with many of these flats and apartments. While the current reform only addresses housing stock, there are rumours that the conservative party plans to roll this out to leasehold apartments in the future. 

As well as adding value to a property, the extension of a leasehold on a property to 990 years would increase the appeal of and, therefore, demand for leasehold properties. This is likely to push the price of such properties closer to that of freehold homes.

22 November: How will the Autumn Statement impact mortgages?

Jeremy Hunt's second Autumn statement was delivered today, and many mortgage holders will, understandably, have been poised and hoping to hear some good news. Mortgage rates and house prices, whilst in slow and steady decline for the most part, have recently made home ownership a painful prospect for many who already have or need a mortgage.

However, tax and national insurance cuts, alongside a rise in the minimum wage from April 2024, overshadowed most of the remaining '110 measures for growth' announced by the chancellor today. While a slight increase in the average paycheck could ease a small element of the burden caused by costly mortgage repayments, there's little more of significant value for the majority of homeowners in today's statement.

In some good news for commercial investors, business planning permission applications will be refunded in full, if the council responsible fails to meet guaranteed faster turnaround times. This is in an effort to prevent commercial planning application delays.

Buy-to-let landlords can take some comfort in the raising of local housing allowance thresholds and universal credit increases announced. This should help those tenants struggling to pay the large rent increases they've seen over the past year.

Many landlords were forced to push up rents as a result of multiple base rate rises, which left mortgage rates high and profit margins narrower for most investors.

Mortgage guarantee scheme extension

In an easy win for the government, they also announced an extension to the mortgage guarantee scheme. This was due to end on 31 December this year, however, it will now be available for a further 18 months, until June 2025.

The mortgage guarantee scheme was introduced during the pandemic, as a way to encourage weary lenders back to higher LTV (loan to value) lending. It protects the lender, rather than the borrower, with the government covering some of the loss lenders' offering 95% LTV mortgages under the scheme would make, if borrowers are unable to pay.

While the scheme did go some way to whipping up a reluctant lending market back in 2021, the vast majority of mortgage providers have now returned to 95% LTV lending without the scheme's backing. This means that, sadly, this gesture is unlikely to benefit a significant number of first-time buyers.

In fact, in today's market, particularly, many buyers are looking for the lower interest rates achievable with a larger deposit - as they may very well be unable to afford 95% LTV mortgage rates.

What other options are there for first-time buyers?

Thankfully, there are a range of other schemes that provide routes into home ownership for those on a low income or struggling to save a large enough deposit. However, as with any mortgage, there are positive and negative factors to consider, so be sure to seek advice from a qualified broker.

1. Shared ownership - this long running scheme allows borrowers to purchase between 10-75% of a property initially, with most housing associations allowing further shares to be purchased up to an eventual 100% ownership

2. Rent-to-buy - This scheme attempts to provide an easier transition from tenant to homeowner by offering a discounted rent on specific properties. Savings made on rent can then to go towards a deposit to eventually buy your rented home

3. Deposit unlock - The first non-government home ownership scheme was introduced in 2021. It allows homes from participating house builders to purchase a new build home with a 95% mortgage from an associated lender. This makes new build homes, which typically require a higher deposit of around 15%, more achievable for first-time buyers

November 13: When will remortgaging become more affordable?

Despite mortgage rates continuing on a downwards trend for the the third consecutive month, A report by conveyancing firm, LMS, has show that remortgage instructions fell by 13% in October, in favour of product transfers. A product transfer is changing mortgages with your existing lender.

They also reported an increase in remortgage cancellation rates, up to 7.7%, as well as an average increase of £187.72 for those who completed their remortgage in October.

Although product transfer rates are not universally more appealing than the remortgage rates currently being offered, it's expected that many mortgage holders are concerned by the more rigid finance and credit checks required for a remortgage, compared to a product transfer.

It's also possible that people are holding out for better remortgage rates, given the current continued fall in the cost of fixed-rate deals available. However, economists don't feel that a significant fall in mortgage interest rates will be seen until the end of 2024.

Should I consider a remortgage now?

The answer to this question will, of course, always depend on your individual circumstances - so there's no blanket answer that will apply to all. However, it's important not to write it off due to headlines and fear of rejection, as there are still savings to be made in some cases.

If you're due to remortgage, here are some tips to consider to help you make the best decision for long-term goals:

  • Don't underestimate the importance of equity - If you've paid off a good chunk of your mortgage, and particularly if your property has increased in value, you may have gained substantial equity in your home. As well as giving you access to more appealing interest rates, this can balance out some of the perceived risk for some lenders. If your credit rating has taken a hit due to to cost of living crisis, it's possible that a good level of equity will soften this blow. Many lenders are looking at remortgage applications more holistically than ever, so don't base your decision solely on your credit score before speaking to a mortgage broker

  • The Mortgage Charter still applies - Although this was brought in back in June of 2023, the mortgage charter is still in effect. This means that lenders are obliged to be more flexible when considering remortgage applications. If you are unable to remortgage, it does also mean that you'll be able to access a product transfer without any financial assessment

  • Product transfers won't usually be quicker if you increase your borrowing - If you're simply looking to coast and pay off your existing home loan, a product transfer can be easier and quicker to get. However, if you want to borrow more, remortgaging elsewhere is likely to be just as straightforward. Borrowing more during a product transfer requires a further advance - which means finance and credit checks are still needed, and it's unlikely to save you any time versus remortgaging elsewhere. Our broker partner, Mojo mortgages, will be able to advise you further, depending on your specific needs

6 November 2023: Why are landlords leaving the rental market?

The residential mortgage market has been losing its appeal to landlords over the past few years, with another 151,000 buy-to-let and holiday home investors having left the industry in the year to April 5 2023, according to research by UHY Hacker Young.

From the income tax changes back in 2017 and a dramatic rise in buy-to-let mortgage rates since 2021, to an increase in tenants in arrears as a result of the cost-of-living crisis, rental properties have, no doubt, become less profitable for many landlords of late.

That said, the retention of section 21 evictions, which was a concern for many landlords, may go some way to retaining those looking to jump ship imminently. There is also, of course, still money to be made in residential lettings for those willing to find a way through current struggles. Lenders are beginning to try to address landlords' financial difficulties, with multiple buy-to-let rate cuts seen over the past couple of months.

How to make the most of the buy-to-let market

If you're looking to retain your rental properties, expand your portfolio, or even venture into the market for the first time, here are some tips for keeping your buy-to-let investments profitable:

  • Diversify your income: Many landlords operate in both residential and commercial property lettings, and there has certainly been an increase in mixed use property in recent years. There are a number of specialist lenders able to consider more complex investment opportunities, you'll just need to speak to an experienced broker, like those at our broker partner, Mojo Mortgages

  • Go green: There are a number of benefits to green mortgages, including the potential access to more attractive rates for those meeting higher EPC ratings. While government plans insisting on higher EPC ratings in rental property were also recently scrapped, many landlords have already invested in these upgrades. Why not look at green remortgage options to see if there are savings to be made from your early investment?

  • Maximise your appeal: At Uswitch we recently carried out research which highlighted a number of attributes which renters prioritise above all else when looking for a home. Some of them are fairly easy to fix, and even easier to consider for new investments; including a good EPC rating, fast broadband speed and strong mobile reception. Interestingly, 60% of those surveyed also preferred that landlords privately managed their property - so there's potential savings to be made on your property management bill, if you have the time to spare

23 October: What will the Autumn Statement mean for first-time buyers?

Jeremy Hunt is due to present this year's Autumn Statement on 22 November, with suggestions surfacing that it may include some elements of much needed first-time buyer support. With high rental and living costs limiting deposit savings, high house prices meaning larger deposits are needed, and higher interest rates making it difficult to qualify for a big enough mortgage, first-time buyers haven't had it easy over the past 18 months.

Many people will, therefore, be looking to the government to support those hoping to buy their first home. There's been some speculation over what measures could potentially be introduced, with improvements to the LISA scheme and an extension of the mortgage guarantee scheme both suggested as potentials.

The LISA is an ISA that can be used by under 40s to save for either their first home, or retirement - with the government topping up personal savings by up to 25%. However, current limitations mean they can only be used to purchase properties up to the value of £450,000. This makes it much less valuable for those in London and the South East - the average property price in the capital currently sitting at just shy of £542,000 according to Zoopla*.

It's also been suggested that an additional ISA product aimed at homeowners may be introduced. This could be in place of the help-to-buy scheme, which is no longer available outside of Wales - however, the details of any definitive schemes are not currently available.

There have also been hints that the mortgage guarantee scheme, which was introduced at the height of the pandemic, could be extended. This scheme was developed to encourage lenders to return to 95% mortgage lending, at a time where the level of employment uncertainty was high - with the government offering to cover a percentage of losses lenders might make.

However, with the majority of lenders now offering a range of 95% mortgages outside of the scheme, it's unclear how much assistance this would realistically provide to prospective homeowners.

*September 2023 Zoopla house price index

02 October: Was scrapping the MEES EPC deadlines good or bad for landlords? 

In late September, Rishi Sunak scrapped the MEES (Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard) plans affecting EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) ratings in England, which had been set to help hit their 2050 Net Zero target. 

In 2020, the MEES had directed that all landlords would need to ensure that their existing rental property tenancies met a minimum EPC standard of C by 2025. Any new tenancies would also have needed to have done so by 2028.

What's changed for landlords?

As of 23 September 2023, however, the following green initiatives have been scrapped by the government:

  • Landlords are no longer legally required to upgrade the energy efficiency of their tenanted properties to C or above by 2025

  • Landlords are no longer legally required to upgrade the energy efficiency of any newly tenanted properties to C or above by 2028

Both previous requirements are now only suggestions, which can be ignored without penalty. It is currently unclear whether the £3,500 expenditure limit on upgrading rental properties to achieve minimum EEC standards will still apply if the MEES regulations are re-implemented in the future, or whether it would be increased to £10,000.

How do landlords feel about this u-turn?

There seem to be mixed feelings about this, with some landlords frustrated, having already forked out substantial funds to meet the original 2025 deadline. However, many have, understandably, been relieved about not having to meet these requirements during a time of financial crisis and high mortgage interest-rates.

Paragon Bank research found that when questioned about the MEES plans, one in five landlords would rather sell their properties than upgrade them. 27% also said that they’d increase rents to cover upgrade costs. 

However, Shawbrook research found that 80% of UK landlords were already prepared for the 2025 EPC regulation deadline - 30% of whom had already achieved an EPC rating of A-C, and a further 50% intending to by 2025.

Nevertheless, whether landlords are irked or relieved, the scrapping of these plans has caused a great deal of indecision in the sector. The NRLA (National Residential Landlords Association) Cheif Executive, Ben Beadle commented “The uncertainty surrounding energy efficiency policy has been hugely damaging to the supply of rented properties...Landlords are struggling to make investment decisions without a clear idea of the government's direction of travel."

How will this impact rentability? 

Interestingly, some recent Uswitch research looking at what prospective tenants look for in a rental, has found that UK renters listed the EPC rating of a property among the most important characteristics of a property they were considering.

Those surveyed felt that the top factors to influence their decision when choosing a rental property are:

  • Contract length (57%)

  • Council tax (54%)

  • EPC rating (32%) / Broadband speed (32%)

This could be some comfort to those landlords who have already made the previously required EPC upgrades, which has clearly increased the appeal of their rental properties to their customers. 

The other benefit to consider are the increasing number of green mortgage options coming to market, many of which offer better rates to those buying properties, or altering properties to meet higher EPC standards.

21 September: Base rate halted as price war continues

The Bank of England (BOE) Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) took the decision this afternoon not to raise the UK base rate of interest any further, it remains at 5.25%.

The MPC's decision followed recent inflation data, which revealed that the CPI had reduced to 6.7% in August. However, the base rate is expected to remain high for now, with some experts feeling that reductions won't begin until at least mid 2024.

Unless inflation falls faster than currently forecast, it could be even longer before any reductions to the base rate are announced - with some economists expecting it to remain at it's current level for a year or more.

Are rates falling? Even before the base rate announcement, we've seen lender slashed their (mainly fixed) rates over the past few weeks, in what looks to be becoming a much more competitive market than we've seen in recent months. This is mainly due to swap rates, which are used to price fixed-rate deals, recently falling.

Here are some of the notable rate cuts for this week so far:

  • NatWest - announced further cuts on selected residential fixed and tracker deals by up to 0.2% and fixed and tracker buy-to-let deals by up to 0.31%

  • State Bank Of India - announced a very surprising 3.9% two-year fixed-rate deal for new buy-to-let customers

  • Virgin Money - launched broker-only residential and buy-to-let fixes with sub 5% interest rates

  • Accord Mortgages - and a few other lenders have also announced rate changes will be made later today, likely following the base rate announcement

Is it time to fix? As always, it depends on your circumstances and whether a fixed-rate mortgage is the best option for you. Of course, it also helps if you're within that key six month window of your current deal's end date. During this period you can sign up for a new rate now, but are not bound to the deal until your existing one ends.

According to UK Finance around 800,000 fixed-rate deals are ending in the latter half of 2023, and 1.6m in 2024. The majority of these customers will be coming off of fixed-rates that were taken out when the base rate was much lower.

However, there's more competition in the market now then we've seen for some time, with some lenders easing rates below the 5% threshold. It could therefore very well be a good time to lock in a new rate. The average SVR (standard variable rate) as of today is still high, at 8.69%, so you'll probably want to avoid falling onto this if you're able to secure a more competitive fixed-rate deal.

What about variable rates?

If economists prove to be correct and we've seen the last increase in the base rate for now, it may be worth staying put. The average tracker is still lower than equivalent fixed and variable deals, at 5.94% at 75% LTV - so it may be best to wait until fixed-rates fall further.

What to do if you're struggling to pay your mortgage While rates are beginning to come down, the 14 consecutive base rate increases, understandably, threw many homeowners into disarray with their finances.

If you're struggling with your repayments, speak to your lender at your earliest convenience. The Mortgage Charter, which was introduced back in June of 2023, compels lenders to assist their struggling customers, so don't be afraid to ask for help.

11 September: Mortgage rates drop further, will house prices follow?

In positive news, the Bank of England governor recently announced that interest rates may not rise much further. He also stated that he expected inflation to continue falling for the remainder of 2023, with a marked fall seen by the end of the year.

Despite this revelation, the majority of economists still expect a 15th consecutive rise in the Bank of England base rate on 21 September. However, it's now predicted to peak at 5.75%, so with it currently at 5.25%, the run of base rate increases may well soon be over.

Lenders seem to think so, if the past week's continued rate cuts are any indicator:

Mortgage rate news and criteria changes in the past week

  • Accord - reduced selected fixed deals by up to 0.98%

  • First Direct - reduced two-year fixes by up to 0.15% and five-year fixes by up to 0.30%

  • Halifax - cut a selection of fixed-rate deals by up to 0.13%

  • HSBC - reduced some of their fixed-rate deal range by up to 0.20%

  • Lloyds Bank - cut certain fixed-rate deals by up to 0.13%

  • NatWest - reduced selected fixed rates by up to 0.18%

  • Santander - cut selected fixed rates by as much as 0.11%

  • TSB - cut selected residential fixed rates by up to 0.20% and buy-to-let rates by up to 0.50%

  • Virgin Money - reduced selected fixed rates across residential purchase and remortgage deals by up to 0.69% as well as selected buy-to-let rates by up to 0.24%

  • Yorkshire building society - cut both fixed-rate and tracker rate products by up to 0.41%

Criteria changes and new products

  • First direct - introduced a new three-year fix at 5.79% for 75% loan-to-value

  • Just Group - the lifetime mortgage specialist has introduced green mortgage discount across it's entire range of lifetime mortgage products, with customers able to request a free energy performance certificate at application stage

  • TSB - launched a range of fee-free remortgage specifically for buy-to-let borrowers with rates as low as 5.79%

Are property prices falling?

Zoopla's August House price index reports a fall in buyer demand of 34% over the past four years versus the five year average. Whilst there is regional variance, this does seem to be very slowly translating into a fall in property value, with e.surv reporting a 1.3% fall in the price of property in England and Wales over the past year. This is the first annual fall in more than 11 years.

However, Zoopla's house price index shows that the largest price falls can be seen in the South, where the property is least affordable property in the country for first-time buyers. On the other hand, in more affordable locations, such as Scotland, there is actual a growth in property prices of around 1.7%, due to higher demand.

04 September: When will mortgage rates drop enough to aid affordability?

According to Standard Life, Google searches for the term ‘when will mortgage rates drop’ have increased dramatically over the past few months, despite most lenders having recently announced at least modest reductions.

We've also seen a short but continued downwards trend in rates over the past two weeks, albeit a smaller one than most mortgage holders and prospective buyers anticipated. But, with new Bank of England statistics showing a 10% fall in mortgage approvals, from 54,600 in June to 49,400 in July, rates are perhaps not yet falling quickly enough to aid affordability.

In their monthly house price index for July, Zoopla forecast that total property sales will have fallen to their lowest level since 2012 by the end of 2023. They also reported an 18% drop in buyer demand over the past two months. Halifax' house price index goes some way to explaining this, reporting that the current average UK home price is still around 6.7 times average earnings, despite this gap having narrowed since 2022. They also calculated that mortgage costs have risen by, on average, 22% in the past year.

Combined with the cost of living crisis, this means that affordability is still out of reach for many prospective home buyers and movers. If you're struggling with mortgage repayments or to find a viable remortgage, contact your lender as soon as possible. The mortgage charter puts more onus on lenders to help customers in financial distress - so be sure to look into the easements that may be available to you.

Is there hope on the horizon?

On a more positive note, Zoopla also expects that it's likely we'll see 'rates return to the 4-5% window this Autumn', although executive director Richard Donnell feels that "Any falls to mortgage rates are unlikely to impact the market and improve affordability further until at least the first half of 2024.

In the meantime, we've seen further cuts and some lenders expanding their criteria over the past week, in an attempt to counteract some of the negative impact of the current rate environment.

Mortgage rate news and criteria changes

  • Aldermore (BTL only) - introduce a limited edition two-year fixed rate deal for landlords at 5.74% (75% LTV) with a 3% fee on 5 September

  • Barclays - cut fixed rates for new residential and buy-to-let by up to 0.2%, bringing their two-year fixed rate below the 6% mark, at 5.98%

  • BM Solutions (BTL only) - announced reductions of up to 0.71% across their entire range

  • HSBC - reduced fixed-rates across selected residential and buy-to-let deals for first-time buyers, home movers and remortgage by up to 0.3%

  • Landbay (BTL only) - cut some of their broker-only five-year fixed rates by up to 0.1%

  • NatWest - announced cuts of up to 0.55% to some of their fixed and tracker rate deals from 5 September

  • Virgin Money - cut fixed rates for new and existing customers by up to 0.3%

Criteria changes

  • Accord Mortgages will now consider zero-hours’ contract applicants

  • HSBC increased their maximum mortgage term to 40 years

  • Skipton extended their 'Track Record' 100% mortgage criteria to include buyers who have previously owned a home, but are no longer on the property ladder - for example, as a result of divorce, disability or illness etc

  • Virgin Money announced improved stress rate calculations for portfolio and non-portfolio landlords and lowered their ICR (interest cover ratio) to 125% for basic rate taxpayers

Is shared ownership the most viable route to modern home ownership?

There have been numerous headlines in recent months outlining the difficult path to home ownership, particularly for young people, in the current climate. Somewhat surprisingly, however, Leeds Building Society recently revealed that over a third of their first-time buyer customers had never heard of the shared ownership scheme, despite it having being around for many years.

With the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee recently launching an inquiry into shared ownership and whether the scheme is genuinely an affordable route to owning a home, this could become a more prominent alternative route onto the property ladder for many who are priced out of the current market. Shared ownership allows both first-time buyers, and previous homeowners who can no longer afford a property that meets their needs to buy a 10-75% portion of a new build home. They can then increase ownership in chunks of 1%+, as and when their affordability increases.

Further reading: check out our range of helpful mortgage tools and guides