Buying a home is likely to be the biggest purchase you'll ever make - and the mortgage deal you choose can make thousands of pounds' worth of difference to your long-term costs.
Mortgages can differ in countless ways, meaning it can be really tricky comparing deals. In this guide, we'll take you through some of the more effective ways of comparing mortgage deals, and offer tips to help you find the best mortgage deal for you.
Comparing mortgage deals by interest rates
When you're comparing mortgages, the interest rate of each deal is probably the most important factor. It can make a huge difference to your monthly and annual payments, as our mortgage interest calculator shows.
You can sort mortgages by interest rate using comparison sites such as Which? Money Compare.
Naturally, a lower interest rate will save you money - but while you can simply rank every mortgage by interest rate, it can be better to separate them out based on what kind of mortgage product you'd prefer.
Mortgages tend to be categorised according to the way their interest rate works, and there are four main types:
- Fixed-rate mortgages are, unsurprisingly, fixed for a set period of time - usually two, five or 10 years.
- Discount mortgages have an interest rate that's pegged a certain percentage below the lender's standard variable rate (SVR - see below), again for a set period. Lenders can change their SVRs whenever they like, meaning your interest payments could vary from month to month.
- Tracker mortgages' interest rates are pegged at a certain percentage above an external interest rate - usually the Bank of England base rate. Again, this means they can vary.
- Standard variable rate mortgages are what you'll be moved on to at the end of your introductory deal period. Mortgage lenders all set their own SVRs and can change them whenever they like. SVRs are usually much higher than fixed, discounted and tracker rates, so it's wise to remortgage - switch to a new deal - before being moved onto the SVR.
For more information, check out our guide to mortgage types.
What are mortgage fees?
Interest rates aren't the only thing you'll need to consider when comparing mortgage deals. Fees can make a big difference, too, and there are several different types you should watch out for:
- Arrangement fees - sometimes known as booking fees, these are paid to the lender for setting up your mortgage. They vary between mortgage providers, ranging from free to £2,000. Sometimes they will be charged as a percentage of your loan.
- Valuation fees - your lender will need to conduct a valuation to check the property is worth roughly what you want to pay for it. This is just to protect them, not you, and some won't even show you the results - but they may still expect you to pay for it.
- Legal fees - when you're remortgaging to a new deal but staying in the same home, some lenders will offer to cover the cost of the conveyancing work involved in switching.
What are APRCs?
A mortgage deal's annual percentage rate of charge (APRC) is a calculation of how much you'd pay if you stuck with the deal for its entire term, until you'd paid off the mortgage in full.
This means the APRC incorporates the initial rate and fees but also the SVR, which you'd be moved onto at the end of the initial deal period.
While it can be interesting to see how deals compare on this measure, the APRC won't be that useful if you're planning to remortgage when your initial period ends.
Should you choose a mortgage offering cashback?
Many lenders now offer cashback and other incentives to make their deals more attractive to potential customers - but you should always weigh up whether a quick injection of cash is worth it if it means paying back more in the long run.
In May 2019, 27% of fixed-rate mortgages available to first-time buyers came with some form of cashback.
However, our research also found that mortgages which offered more cashback often charged more in interest.
You can find out more in our news story on cashback mortgages for first-time buyers.
Comparing lenders on customer service and reputation
As well as the details of a specific mortgage deal, it can be helpful to consider the quality of the lender behind it. After all, a low interest rate is great, but if it's coming from a lender who won't answer your calls when you have questions, is it worth the saving?
Every year, Which? surveys thousands of homeowners about their mortgage and lender, and combines the results with expert analysis to reveal the best lenders for customer service, value for money, and a number of other metrics.
The current Which? Recommended Providers are in the table below - but if you'd like to see how all of the UK's biggest mortgage lenders fared, check out our full list of mortgage lender reviews.
|Provider||Which? verdict||Customer score|
|Principality tops our table for customer satisfaction and can offer mortgages for new-build properties if you have a small deposit.||80%|
|A consistently high scorer in our customer satisfaction surveys, First Direct can also be relied on for some of the best deals around.||77%|
|The UK's largest building society ranks highly for customer satisfaction and offers deals for those with large and small deposits.||77%|
|With a high customer satisfaction score, Skipton says its customers can choose more than one mortgage to suit their individual requirements.||73%|
Banks vs building societies: which offer the best rates?
When it comes to mortgage-hunting, many people start by talking to their own bank - but it would be a lucky (and unusual) coincidence if that was where the best deal was to be found.
In fact, it's often not banks offering the best deals at all, but building societies - and often ones that you won't see on your local high street.
So, to get a full picture of the deals on offer, you really do need to include building societies in your search - especially since three of our four Which? Recommended Providers for 2018 were building societies.
See our May 2019 news story on banks vs building societies for mortgage rates for a full breakdown of the differences.
Finding the best mortgage deals: five top tips
1. Work out what you can afford
Use our mortgage repayment calculator to find out what your repayments would be at different interest rates. This will give you a better idea of how much you can afford to borrow - both now, and if rates change in the future.
2. Shop around
There are thousands of mortgages on the market, each with vastly differing rates and fees, so it's important you don't settle for the first one you find. You can compare the best mortgage deals currently on the market by visiting Which? Money Compare.
3. Be wary of extra interest
Instead of paying your mortgage fees upfront, you may have the option of adding them to your loan. While this can be a helpful option if you're low on cash, be aware that it will result in you paying interest on these fees over time.
4. Look out for early repayment charges
Most fixed-rate mortgages come with early repayment charges (ERCs), which you will incur if you exceed the fee-free overpayment limit (usually 10% per year) or leave the mortgage during the introductory deal period (for example, if you move house or switch deals).
If you think you may move house within the deal period, you might want to consider going for a tracker or discount deal instead, or potentially choosing a portable mortgage which you can take with you.
5. Get whole-of-market, unbiased advice
Choosing a mortgage is undoubtedly complex and it can be really useful to use a mortgage adviser (or 'broker'), who can advise you on the best deal for your personal circumstances.
Be aware that some mortgages are only available to people applying directly (without a broker), while for other deals the opposite is true and you'll only qualify if you apply through a broker.
When we checked in June 2019, 32% of mortgages were direct-only, 42% were broker-only and 26% were available through either route.
To complicate matters further, some mortgage brokers just work with a select panel of lenders, meaning they won't be able to tell you about deals from other lenders which may be cheaper.
If you want to make sure you're really getting the best deal, it's advisable to use a 'whole-of-market' broker who will be able to look at every mortgage on the market (including direct-only ones) and recommend the right option for you.
- Find out more: choosing a mortgage broker