Panicking homeowners on tracker mortgages have created an increase in demand for fixed-rate deals. Borrowers are scrambling to get a cheap fixed-rate mortgage before an expected rise in interest, and this in turn has prompted thirty-five lenders to increase their fixed rate deals – almost overnight. Mortgage Broker London and Country has seen a 40% increase in enquiries since the news of high inflation sent shockwaves through the mortgage market. Traditionally the Bank of England increases the base rate of interest to keep inflation under control.
At the end of December, nine banks or building societies were offering five year fixed-rates below 4%. Now, there is only two – and you would need a hefty deposit to qualify. The best five-year fixed-rate mortgages are now between 4 and 4.5%, with the best two-year fix at around 3%. Although brokers and bankers have consistently advised homeowners to remortgage, the advice has been met with almost unified cynicism – largely because of the current low rates and the fact that those proffering the advice were set to benefit financially from it.
However, the ‘wait and see’ standoff could have resulted in borrowers missing out on some great fixed-rate deals and there is a school of thought amongst the financial experts which suggests that, because interest rates have been so low for so long, homeowners have now got a distorted view of what constitutes a decent interest rate. Remortgaging would not be an option available to all borrowers of course; with the seemingly continual fall in property value, many will not have the equity needed and for others – particularly those on an ultra low tracker (base rate plus 1% for example) remortgaging would not be the best option at present.
Latest house price indices from Nationwide showed that average property value had fallen for the fifth time in seven months. Prices edged 0.1% lower in January, prompting the building society to say that the housing market was looking ‘highly uncertain’ in 2011. This mood of uncertainty seems to be more about the low transaction levels being recorded at present than the actual modest fall in house prices. A continued uncertain economic outlook is keeping many potential buyers on the sidelines, although there is currently no sign of a glut of unsold properties – something that would have the potential to bring down the value of property very sharply.