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25 Feb 2019

First-time buyers and remortgagers: how to get the cheapest mortgage rates before Brexit

With one month to go until Brexit, is now the time to fix your mortgage?

With little more than a month to go before the UK leaves the EU, is now the time to get a cheap deal on a fixed-rate mortgage?

As the clock ticks down to the Brexit deadline on 29 March, you might be considering getting your finances in order ahead of any further upheaval.

But is now the time to stick or twist?

Over the past few months, there have been jitters in the property market,but the truth is that around 100,000 people are still buying homes each month, and many are taking advantage of cheap mortgage rates.

Here, we explain whether Brexit has affected mortgage rates, and offer advice on the trends that homebuyers and remortgagers need to know about.

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Has Brexit affected mortgage rates?

The economic uncertainty of the past few years hasn't had a profound effect on mortgage rates.

Indeed, both two- and five-year fixes are currently cheaper than they were around the time of the EU referendum in spring 2016.

And although both rates are now more expensive than those seen at the time of the general election in June 2017, this can in-part be explained by two increases in the Bank of England base rate.

Are mortgages Brexit-proof?

For all of the headlines about possible property market meltdowns, 101,000 people bought a home in January (according to figures from HMRC).

On top of this, data released last week by UK Finance showed that 370,000 mortgages were granted to first-time buyers last year, the highest number recorded in 12 years.

There's more choice out there for buyers and remortgagers, too.

Figures from Moneyfacts show there are now morefixed-rate mortgagesavailable at maximum loan-to-value (LTV) ratios of 60%, 75%, 85% and 90% than at any point since its records began in July 2007.

Is Brexit changing the mortgage market?

While it's largely 'business as usual' in the mortgage market, there have been changes to borrower sentiment over the past few years.

There are signs that more people have been looking to fix their mortgage rate for longer, perhaps to avoid the impact of any future rises in the base rate or uncertainty caused by a tumultuous or 'no deal' Brexit.

Last month, this change in borrower behaviour saw the gap in cost between a two-year and five-year fix drop to 0.41% - the lowest figure since 2013.

Jan-Dec 2017Jan-Dec 201828 Jan 2019
Average two-year fixed-rate2.29%2.47%2.50%
Average five-year fixed-rate2.86%2.91%2.91%

Source: Moneyfacts, 28 January 2019.

First-time buyer mortgages get cheaper

Another of the biggest trends in the past year has been lenders shifting focus from lower LTV deals (such as 70% or 75%) to those for buyers with small deposits.

Which? researchin November last year, found that 95% mortgages had dropped in cost at a time when other products were getting more expensive,

And this trend has continued in 2019. We reported earlier this monththat the average rate on a 95% mortgage has dropped by more than 0.5% in the space of six months, currently clocking in at around 3.4%.

Buying a home or remortgaging before Brexit: things to watch out for

95% mortgages and negative equity

95% mortgages are attractively priced at the moment, but make sure you do your research.

If prices in the area where you're buying have increased at unsustainable levels over the past decade, you might be better saving a bigger deposit before jumping in.

This is because a relatively small drop in house prices could leave you vulnerable to negative equity.

Early repayment charges on longer fixes

If you're thinking of fixing for five years or more, ensure you're aware of any early repayment charges (ERCs).

ERCs are usually charged as a percentage of the loan amount, which decreases each year that you have the deal. So, in year one the ERC might be 3-4%, while in year four it might be 1% .

The risk of tracker deals

Tracker mortgages (which rise and fall in line with the Bank of England base rate) are priced rather cheaply at the moment.

But it's difficult to say whether the base rate will continue to rise - especially in a time of economic uncertainty - and if it does, even the lowest rates will lose some of their shine.

Flexibility to fix

Nobody knows what's going to happen with Brexit, so you might be tempted to stay on your toes rather than opting for long-term rate security.

If you choose a two-year fix, you can arrange your next mortgage six months in advance (after 18 months) - so it's worth considering this option if you're thinking of moving or don't want to tie yourself down.

Lowest pre-Brexit mortgage rates

The tables below show the cheapest introductory rates currently available on deals at 60%, 75%, 80% and 90% LTV across three popular deal types - two-year fixes, five-year fixes and two-year trackers.

Two-year fix

Max LTVLenderInitial rateRevert rateAPRCFees
75%Atom Bank**1.44%4%3.7%£1,200
1.79%4.24% (3.49%
+ base rate)

*minimum loan of £250,000 **minimum loan of 350,000 ***maximum loan of 400,000

Five-year fix

Max LTVLenderInitial rateRevert rateAPRCFees
90%Atom Bank**2.24%4%3.4%£1,200

*minimum loan of 200,000 **minimum loan of £350,000

Two-year tracker

Max LTVLenderInitial rateRevert rateAPRCFees
60%Halifax1.34% (base rate + 0.59%)4.24%3.8%£999
75%Leeds1.38% (base rate + 0.63%)4.69% (5.69%
- base rate)
80%Halifax1.48% (base rate + 0.73%)4.24%3.8%£999
90%Accord Mortgages
1.99% (base rate + 1.24%)4.25% (4.99%
- base rate)

*maximum loan of £500,000
Source: Moneyfacts, 21 January 2019. Repayment mortgages only.