Mortgage types in the UK: identifying which suits you

Last updated: March 2024 | 3 min read

There are numerous types of mortgages available. Your choice depends on your circumstances and preferences. Your mortgage type will shape your financial planning, affect your monthly expenses and future commitments. Some of the mortgage types in the UK are explained here so you can choose wisely.

Why mortgage type matters

Mortgage type directly impacts your financial planning, both in the short and long term. It shapes how you manage monthly expenses and long-range financial commitments. Whether you are a first-time buyer or simply wish to opt for a different mortgage deal, the type of mortgage you choose can affect your cash flow as well as how quickly you can pay off your mortgage.

Deciding between fixed-rate, tracker, or interest-only mortgages, sets the tone for how you budget and save. Read about the mortgage rules and mortgage fees to make an informed decision.

How to choose the right mortgage for you

Choosing a suitable mortgage involves assessing your financial situation, future plans, and risk tolerance.

Begin by considering your stability of income, willingness to take risks with interest rates, and long-term financial goals. Your choice influences not only your monthly mortgage payments but also the total amount repayable over the mortgage term.

Reflect on your preferences for consistency in payments versus the potential for saving money when interest rates are low. Understanding the nuances of each mortgage type aids in making a choice that aligns with your financial objectives.

Fixed rate mortgage

A fixed rate mortgage locks the interest rate for a set period. This period, known as the fixed rate period can vary, typically ranging from two to ten years. During this time, your payments per month remain unchanged, regardless of any fluctuations in the wider market rates of interest.

Once completed, the mortgage will then revert to the lender's standard variable rate (SVR) and you'll be able to switch lenders or apply for another fixed rate term with your existing provider.

The majority of mortgage holders offer a fixed rate deal.

Pros and cons of a fixed rate mortgage

Fixed rate mortgages offer peace of mind. With a consistent monthly payment, budgeting becomes simpler. You are shielded from sudden increases in rates, which can impact variable rate mortgage holders. This consistency can be especially appealing in an economic climate where interest rates are expected to rise.

Fixed interest rate mortgage provides predictability and security in your financial planning, allowing you to budget with certainty.

However, these fixed rate mortgages are not just about predictability. If rates do increase, you could find yourself paying less than those on variable rate deals.

Additionally, knowing exactly what you will pay each month makes it easier to plan for other investments or savings.

There are also limitations to a fixed rate mortgage. Typically, these deals come with higher initial rates compared to variable rate mortgages. This is for lenders to compensate for the money they may lose on monthly repayments should interest rates rise.

If interest rates fall, you will not benefit from reduced payments. This can mean paying more over the fixed period than you would have with variable rate deals.

Early repayment charges (ERCs) are another consideration. If you decide to switch mortgages or pay off your loan early, these charges can apply. They are particularly prevalent during this period.

Take into consideration that for how long you are comfortable committing to a fixed rate, balancing the need for stability against the potential for change in your circumstances or rates.

Assessing fixed rate deals

When comparing fixed rate deals, the interest rate is not the only factor to consider. The length of the fixed rate period impacts your long-term planning. Shorter fixed periods might offer lower rates, but they require more frequent reassessments of your mortgage options.

Think about the overall cost of the deal, including fees and the standard variable rate (SVR) that the mortgage reverts to, after the fixed period. A low fixed rate might seem attractive, but high fees or a significantly higher SVR can offset initial savings.

Lender reputation and service quality also matter. Researching customer experiences and lender flexibility can save future headaches.

Finally, consider any linked products, like savings accounts, that might be part of the mortgage package. These could offer additional financial benefits.

Variable rate mortgage types

Variable rate mortgages differ from their fixed-rate counterparts, primarily due to the fluctuating interest rate. This mortgage links its rate to either the lender's standard variable rate (SVR) or another rate such as the Bank of England's base rate.

As the mortgage interest rate varies in this type, the distinctive feature is the change in your monthly repayments as the rate changes, offering both opportunities and uncertainties.

Following are the three types of variable rate mortgages available:

Standard variable rate mortgage

A standard variable rate mortgage (SVR) follows the lender's interest rate. Unlike fixed, tracker, or discount mortgages, the lender's SVR is not directly tied to England's base rate.

Lenders have the freedom to set and change this rate, influenced but not dictated by external economic factors.

Monthly repayments can vary, reflecting the rate's fluctuation.

Tracker mortgage

Tracker mortgages directly link their interest rate to another rate, often the Bank of England's base rate. The mortgage rate is set at a fixed margin above this base rate, ensuring transparency in how rates are derived. When the base rate changes, so does the tracker mortgage rate, and consequently, your mortgage repayments.

These mortgages offer predictability in rate fluctuations, linked to a specific, visible rate.

Discount mortgage

Discount mortgages offer a reduction on the lender's SVR for a certain period, typically ranging from two to five years. The discount makes the initial rate period appealing due to lower repayments.

However, if the SVR rises, so do your repayments, albeit at a discounted rate.

Discount mortgages can be an attractive short-term option but require awareness of potential SVR changes.

Capped rate mortgage

Capped rate mortgages promise a variable interest rate with a safety net. These mortgages set a maximum limit ('cap') on the interest rate, ensuring it will not rise above a certain level, despite SVR changes. This cap offers a blend of flexibility and security.

Your rate can decrease if the SVR goes down but will not exceed the capped rate if the SVR rises, safeguarding against extreme rate hikes.

Factors to consider when choosing a variable rate mortgage

When contemplating a variable rate mortgage, reflect upon your financial resilience to rate changes. These mortgages can offer lower initial rates, but the variable nature means your monthly repayments may increase. Consider your ability to manage fluctuating monthly costs.

A good understanding of market trends and interest rate forecasts can also guide your decision.

Lastly, evaluate the mortgage deal's features, such as the possibility of an early repayment charge, and how they align with your long-term financial plans. Learn more about variable and fixed rate mortgages.

Interest only mortgage

An interest only mortgage involves paying interest monthly, while the principal balance remains unchanged.

This mortgage type contrasts with repayment mortgages, where monthly payments cover both interest and capital. Typically, at the end of the mortgage term, you must repay the original loan in full, often through an investment, pension, savings plan, or other repayment strategy.

Initially, what you pay per month is lower compared to capital repayment mortgages, but it is essential to have a robust plan for repaying the loan at the term's end.

Pros and cons of an interest only mortgage

An interest only mortgage offers lower monthly payments, providing immediate financial relief and flexibility. This benefit allows you to allocate funds towards other investments or financial commitments.

They are particularly appealing if you expect a significant future income rise or have a clear, reliable repayment plan, such as investments or a future property sale.

These mortgages carry the risk of the capital debt remaining at the end of the term, necessitating a solid exit strategy. If your repayment plan does not grow as expected (e.g., if investments underperform), you might face a significant shortfall. Ensuring you have a feasible plan to pay back the loan is critical, as failure to do so can lead to the loss of your home.

Interest only vs repayment mortgage

An interest only mortgage differs from a capital repayment mortgage primarily in its structure. With a repayment mortgage, you gradually reduce the capital and interest, eventually owning the property outright at the end of the term. In contrast, interest only payments cover only the interest, not reducing the principal loan amount.

This setup means that at the end of the mortgage period, you still owe the original amount borrowed. And because you will be paying back the interest on the entire loan, as opposed to a decreasing amount, an interest-only mortgage often costs more, over time.

Comparatively, a repayment mortgage might seem more secure as it inherently includes a repayment plan. However, interest only options can suit you if you have a credible, alternative plan to accumulate the necessary funds over time.

Consider your long-term financial stability, investment savvy, and risk appetite when choosing between these two types of mortgages.

Other mortgage types and their unique features

Offset mortgages - linking your savings: Offset mortgagees provide a link to your savings. They cleverly use your savings account balance to reduce your mortgage debt.

Essentially, you will not earn interest on your savings. Instead, the bank sets your savings against your mortgage loan. For example, with £20,000 in your savings and a £200,000 mortgage, you only pay interest on £180,000.

This type can make a real difference in your interest payments, especially for those with substantial savings. However, their rates can be higher than standard mortgages.

Considering your financial habits and savings is key before choosing an offset mortgage.

95% and Help to Buy mortgages for first-time buyers: 95% mortgages and Help to Buy schemes support first-time buyers in stepping onto the property ladder.

A 95% mortgage covers most of your property's value, requiring just a 5% deposit. It is a handy option if your savings are limited.

Help to Buy equity loans, where the government lends you part of the purchase price, offer a similar leg up.

While easing initial financial pressure, these might come with higher rates or fees. You must weigh the upfront cost savings against potential long-term expenses.

Flexible and overpayment options for more freedom: This type of mortgage offers the freedom to overpay, underpay, or even take payment holidays, depending on the lender's terms. This flexibility is ideal if you anticipate fluctuations in your income.

Overpayments can significantly reduce your mortgage term and total interest. But read the fine print: some lenders restrict the amount you can overpay. If you foresee an irregular income pattern or possible bonuses, flexible mortgages might align well with your financial landscape.

Buy to Let mortgages based on potential rental income: A Buy to Let mortgage is for purchasing property to rent out. Unlike standard mortgages, lenders typically base your loan amount on potential rental income rather than just your salary.

This type of mortgage requires typically larger deposits, and rates of interest are often higher.

Before opting for this type of mortgage, ensure that you have considered all costs associated with being a landlord, including property maintenance, insurance, and periods when the property might be unoccupied.

Joint and guarantor mortgages offer shared responsibility: A joint mortgage allows multiple parties, typically two, to share mortgage ownership. It is a practical choice for couples or friends buying together. Your combined income can potentially increase your borrowing power when it comes to a guarantor mortgage.

Joint mortgages involve a third party, usually a family member, agreeing to cover payments if you default. This type can be a lifeline for those with a limited credit score or lower income.

However, keep in mind that a joint mortgage requires strong trust and understanding among all involved, as financial risks are shared.

Making an informed decision about your mortgage type

Impact of your credit history

Your credit history significantly influences the mortgage deals available to you. It is a good idea to work on improving your credit score. A robust history typically unlocks access to a wider range of mortgages, often with more favourable interest rates.

Conversely, a chequered credit past might limit your options, nudging you towards products with higher rates.

Lenders assess your history to gauge the risk of lending money. Hence, before seeking a mortgage, reviewing your credit report for accuracy and improving your credit score is wise.

Mortgage broker's role in finding the right deal

Mortgage brokers act as intermediaries, connecting you with potential lenders and deals that fit your financial profile. They are particularly useful if your situation is unique or complex.

A broker can save you time by quickly identifying the most suitable mortgage deals, sometimes even those not directly available to the public. Their expertise can also clarify the intricacies of different types of mortgages, aiding you in making a well-informed choice.

Interest rates, loan period, and monthly repayments

Selecting the right mortgage is not just about finding the lowest interest rate. But you must also consider how the mortgage rates, terms, and repayment structure align with your financial goals and situation.

Shorter mortgage terms generally mean higher monthly payments but lower overall interest.

Longer terms ease monthly budgets but increase the total interest paid. The type of mortgage influences your repayment strategy. For instance, repayment mortgages combine capital and interest, gradually reducing the loan, whereas interest only mortgages require a separate plan to pay off the loan.

Practical steps and preparation

Documentation and eligibility

Mortgage lenders assess your financial stability and risk. Prepare recent bank statements, pay slips, and proof of address.

Consistent monthly payments and a stable income enhance your profile. Self-employed individuals need at least two years of accounts or tax returns.

Lenders scrutinise your spending habits and existing debts. Aim to reduce outstanding debts and avoid new loans or credit commitments before applying.

APR and other fees

The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) includes the interest rate and additional fees, giving a truer cost measure.

Understanding exit fees, valuation fees, and arrangement fees is essential. Fees can add up, impacting the affordability of your mortgage deal.

How to negotiate the best mortgage deal

You should start by researching the market. Compare mortgage deals from various lenders to find competitive interest rates. A mortgage broker can offer insights into deals that suit your financial circumstances.

Good negotiation can secure better rates or lower fees. It is possible to negotiate fees and rates, especially if you have a strong credit score and a substantial deposit. Don't hesitate to ask for better terms or clarity on confusing clauses in your mortgage agreement.

In conclusion

Here is a brief takeaway of the key factors to remember as you set off on your journey of selecting the best mortgage deal for you:

  • Different types of mortgages cater to varied financial situations. Take your time in evaluating all available and suitable options in detail.

  • Fixed rate mortgages promise stability in payments, making budget planning easier. If you prefer predictable monthly expenses, this type might suit you.

  • Tracker and variable rate mortgages offer potential savings when rates are low. These are more suitable if you can handle fluctuating payments.

  • Interest only mortgages, while lowering monthly costs, require a robust repayment plan for the capital. Your choice depends on your financial comfort and long-term goals.

  • Seeking advice from a mortgage broker or financial adviser can provide personalised insights. They can help match your financial situation with the right type of mortgage, considering your long-term objectives.

  • Exploring online resources and comparison tools can further illuminate your path.

Remember, this decision shapes your financial future, so thorough research and expert advice are key to finding the mortgage that best suits your needs.

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