Part 2: Mortgages glossary and tips

Mortgages are typically the biggest financial decision that people will make in their lifetime. One of the most common situations is when people will determine what they can afford to spend each month, pick a very expensive house and then pay for that house over the longest duration they can in order to achieve that monthly payment and get the lowest interest rate possible. This is not often the best way to go and can often leave you stuck in your job and “house poor” where you no longer have savings each month just to repay your mortgage.

This will go through some features of a standard mortgage for a home and tips afterwards and next chapter will go through mortgage types and an affordability calculator.

Check out Part 1 if you haven’t already where I discuss budgeting and share a budget template you can use for yourself.

Features of a mortgage

FeatureDescription
Down payment / DepositYour down payment, or deposit, is the amount you put up front to secure the mortgage loan from a bank or building society. The lowest amount for a standard mortgage in the UK would be a 5% down payment meaning 5% of the property value for example a £200,000 home would have a 5% deposit of £10,000 (200,000*5% or 200,000*0.05). A 0% down payment is only available under a guarantor mortgage in the UK which relies on someone becoming liable for you should you fail to pay your monthly payments.
PrincipleThe principle is the amount you borrow from the bank or building society. Using a £200,000 home with the 5% down payment again would mean the principle would be £190,000. This £190,000 is what you borrow from the bank and this will vary depending on the property value and your down payment.
InterestOf course banks do not lend for free (as nice as that would be). The interest is the additional charge that the bank adds to your principle amount and is calculated monthly. However, the value that will be on your mortgage will be a yearly value. For example, a 3% interest rate would be a 0.25% monthly rate (3/12 months in a year). In the £200,000 example this would mean you pay £500 in the first month in interest.
You may think this would mean you pay less each month after the first as if you pay £1000 in the first month on a £200,000 house with 5% down payment then you only owe £189,500 (£190,000 principle minus £500 due to the other £500 paying the interest). Surely next month you should only pay 0.25% interest on the 189,500 (£473.75 in interest)? Well not exactly… Mortgage payments are fixed each month because of something called Amortisation which will be explained next.
AmortisationThis is what causes your monthly payment to be consistent over the life of a mortgage (assuming no changes in interest rate occur). Simply put, the principal and mortgage interest payments are divided in each monthly payment as a ratio that declines over time. As a rough example, your first monthly payment may be £1000. 40% of this value (£400) will pay off your principal and the other £600 will pay only the interest. Over time this ratio changes as you pay off the principal amount so that near the end of the mortgage you pay more of the principal than the interest ie. 90% principal payment and 10% interest payment at year 28 of a 30 year mortgage.
In short most of the early mortgage payments you make are just paying off the interest on your loan and not the loan principal itself which is why overpayments are critical.
TermThis is the duration of the mortgage. Typically people get a 25 year mortgage however these can be longer or shorter. With the increasing house prices longer terms are seen with a rise in 30-40 year term loans.
Arrangement FeeCan be zero fee or over £2000. This is the fee to complete a mortgage application and can be paid separately or added onto the mortgage. See below for some further tips.
Booking FeeAn application fee that some mortgage providers will charge just to apply for a mortgage with them. This can be a few hundred pounds though sometimes this is included in the arrangement fee.
Valuation FeeYou may choose to do your own survey to assess the property (there are a few options depending on how extensive you wish the survey to be) however, the bank will do their own survey to confirm the value of the property is equal to the loan. They will only look at the value of the property and not the problems that may be included with it.
This can be free on some mortgages or they can charge up to £1500 on average for this. This can be added onto the mortgage cost so is worth confirming.
CHAPS (Clearing house automated payment system)This is the fee that your mortgage lender charges to transfer the mortgage funds to your solicitor and is usually a maximum of £50
Early repayment feeFor most people this is not something that is considered but is important. This is the fee to repay your mortgage early either in full or in part. This is worth checking if you ever plan to overpay on your mortgage on a monthly basis. Some lenders will allow a certain percentage of the mortgage principal to be paid each year without a fee but some will charge up to 5% of the amount you pay extra. It is recommended to avoid mortgage providers that do this as you will be locked in to pay the interest for the full mortgage term and repaying will cost you the same, if not more, than just making the normal payments each month.

TIPS Section

There are some recommendations to be made for the terms above and mortgage in general.

Down paymentI would advise getting as much of a deposit as possible but 10% should be an initial goal. Understandably this is a large amount to many people however the benefits of 10% is that this is often an optimum down payment for the lowest interest rate. Below 10% the interest rate gets much larger but above 10% the drop in interest rate becomes less significant unless you reach the big whole numbers such as 20%, 30% and 40%.
InterestWhen thinking about interest it is important to think about this only being valid for a few years. UK mortgages are limited in terms of fixed interest with 3-5 years being most available however recently some providers are increasing this to have a fixed interest for 10-15 years now.
You may have a low interest rate that looks very affordable initially but this can quickly change especially in todays environment. 3 years may seem like a long time however in 3 years time you will be, most likely, switched to a variable rate which is controlled by the mortgage lender and influenced by the Bank of England interest rate. Your fixed rate 3% mortgage may very quickly double to 6%, or even higher, anytime after those 3 years depending on the economic environment.
It is important to remember that interest rates can increase when considering fixed interest mortgages when the fixed year rate runs out.
AmortisationThis is important when thinking about overpayments which can be checked online here https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/mortgages/mortgage-overpayment-calculator/ . This can greatly reduce your interest payments and bring your loan to a shorter term saving you both money and ensuring you will have a home in your name.
TermThe term is an interesting one. The duration is always up to you with a maximum 40 year term possible however most go for a 30-35 year mortgage.
This is affected by your age and how far you are from retirement age.
In my experience a longer term works out better in almost all cases. A shorter term mortgage will increase your monthly payments but you can reduce monthly payments with a longer term and make overpayments to repay the loan faster. This way the additional payment is optional, allowing for more flexibility in your finances.
It is important to consider early repayment charges in your mortgage as mentioned above!
Arrangement feeThese can be a bit tricky but a mortgage advisor can help point out the best deals. To get to the top of the recommended list, when doing an online mortgage comparison search, a lot of lenders will have this as a separate fee in order to keep the interest rate lower. When the fee is added onto the mortgage it typically will raise the interest so by taking this off it looks like the deal is better than it is and should you add this arrangement fee to the mortgage you may find the interest rate is higher than other mortgage lenders.

Hope this helps you a little bit to understand some terms while you search for mortgages. My next post will be a mortgage affordability calculator which will give you a good idea of what size of house you should be looking at and whether or not you can afford a change to your interest rate.

Stay tuned and check out some of our other posts in the blog!

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