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11 Jul 2020

Five ways lenders are making mortgages more attractive after the coronavirus lockdown

The latest moves in the mortgage market, including green deals and flexible fixes

The property market may have sparked back into life after the lockdown, but many homebuyers still face a limited choice when it comes to mortgages.

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in banks withdrawing more than half of their deals and buyers with the smallest deposits seeing their options dry up almost entirely.

There are signs now, however, that lenders are looking to entice movers with deals that reflect the challenges they face in 2020.

Here, Which? looks at some of the biggest recent developments in the mortgage market and explains how buyers with bigger deposits can still secure great rates.

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1. Interest-only options on the rise

Research by Moneyfacts shows that 61% of mortgages currently on the market offer an interest-only option, up from 48% in March.

The comparison website says interest-only deals could be a viable option for borrowers who've suffered financially as a result of COVID-19.

Interest-only mortgages allow you to reduce your monthly expenses, but you will need to have a plan in place to repay the capital.

The broker Legal & General says enquiries for interest-only deals have risen significantly in recent months, and this may continue as borrowers come off mortgage payment holidays.

If you're considering an interest-only deal, it makes sense to take advice from a whole-of-market mortgage adviser before rushing in.

2. Fixing with flexibility

Longer-term fixed-rate mortgages have grown in popularity over the past few years, but high early repayment charges (ERCs) of up to 5% of the balance are a big caveat.

This week, TSB launched what it claimed to be an 'industry-first' five-year fix with no ERCs after the first three years.

The deal is currently available for existing customers looking to remortgage and will be extended to first-time buyers and home movers on 17 July.

The mortgage is available at up to 80% loan-to-value with a rate from 1.99% and no upfront fee.

Five-year deals allow you to lock in a great rate for longer but take the time to consider your plans before tying yourself into such a long-term fix.

3. A 10-year term with a rate below 2%

Barclays has introduced a new 10-year fixed-rate mortgage with an initial rate of 1.99%, providing a low-cost option for those looking for longer-term rate security.

The deal is only available to borrowers with a deposit of at least 40% and comes with a fee of £999.

The major caveat, again, is the ERC. Barclays charges a 5% ERC for the whole 10-year term, which differs from other providers in the market.
For example, Virgin Money's ERC is 7% in the first year, but reduces throughout the term to reach just 1% in the 10th year.

10-year fixes can be a good option if you're not planning to move home for a decade, or if you've only got 10 years left on your term, but the lack of flexibility on offer means these deals won't be suitable for everyone.

4. Discounts for energy efficiency

With the government pushing forward its energy-efficiency policies, we could see more lenders begin to offer 'green' mortgages.

These deals, which offer lower rates for people who make energy-efficient improvements to their homes, have been about for a few years, but have largely remained a niche product.

This week, Saffron Building Society launched its new 'retro fit' mortgage, which comes with an initial rate of 1.47% at up to 80% loan-to-value (with a £999 upfront fee).

Borrowers who upgrade the efficiency of their home by at least one energy performance certificate (EPC) band can benefit from a rate reduction of 0.1%.

5. Help for self-employed buyers

Self-employed homebuyers and remortgagers might be concerned about their options in the wake of COVID-19, but there are signs that lenders are looking to help.

This week, Beverley Building Society announced its 'bounce back' initiative, allowing self-employed borrowers to be considered for a 75% mortgage with just one year of accounts.

There's also the option for borrowers with more established businesses to take the first year of their mortgage interest-only.

If you're self-employed and are considering applying for a mortgage, you may find that smaller building societies that adopt a more 'case by case' assessment could be your best bet.

It can also be helpful to take advice from a mortgage broker, who can survey the market to find you a suitable deal.

Are deals returning to the market?

In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, the number of mortgage deals on the market halved.

A few months on, we are beginning to see an uptick in deal numbers, but there are still very few options available to first-time buyers with small deposits.

There are currently 2,689 fixed-rate deals on the market, but only 45 of these are available to first-time buyers with deposits of 10% or less.

For buyers with bigger deposits, rates have remained attractive. The chart below shows the cheapest rates currently available at 60%, 75% and 85% loan-to-value.