The Silver Lining in Rising Mortgage Rates: Six Reasons for Optimism
Recent days have brought added strain to homeowners and hopeful first-time buyers as mortgage costs soar to a 15-year high. With the average rate on a two-year fixed deal approaching 7%, and the Bank of England predicting a rise of over £500 a month for one million people by the end of 2026, the situation appears grim. However, amidst the challenges, several factors suggest that the impact might not be as severe as some fear:
Low Repossession Rates: Despite the financial pressure, the number of homes being repossessed remains relatively low. In the first quarter of this year, only 750 homes and 410 buy-to-let properties were repossessed. Lenders prefer to collaborate with customers to create manageable payment plans, making the chances of losing one's home slim.
House Price Appreciation and Savings: The pandemic caused a race for space, driving up demand for homes and increasing house prices. As a result, many homeowners now have more equity in their properties, which can help offset higher mortgage costs when seeking a new deal. Additionally, the pandemic led to higher levels of savings, and some individuals are now using these funds to pay down their mortgages.
Beneficial Stress Testing: The stress testing imposed by lenders before approving mortgage applications has had some positive effects. Applicants who passed these tests can now handle the higher interest rates, preventing them from falling into unmanageable debt.
Borrowers' Flexibility: Existing borrowers are exploring options to cope with the rising interest rates, such as extending their mortgage term. Lenders are encouraging open communication to find workable solutions. First-time buyers are also willing to adjust their plans, either by increasing their deposit or buying smaller properties to accommodate tighter affordability.
Secure Jobs: Despite rising borrowing costs, the job market remains resilient. For those with secure employment and regular income, the ability to afford higher mortgage payments remains intact, even if it comes with some financial strain.
Landlords and Mortgages: While buy-to-let mortgage rates are higher, not all landlords have mortgages on their properties. Only about two million out of 5.5 million properties in the private rental sector are mortgaged, which means some landlords may be less affected by rate increases. This situation might also alleviate tenants' concerns about higher rent prices.
In summary, though mortgage rates have surged, there are reasons to be cautiously optimistic. Low repossessions, increased equity, savings, helpful stress tests, borrowers' adaptability, and secure job markets all contribute to mitigating the severity of the current challenges. While the situation demands vigilance, it does not appear to be plunging the housing market into freefall, offering hope for a more stable future.