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21/05/05 - Property Value

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21/05/05 - Mortgages to reduce

MORTGAGE lenders are priming themselves to cut loan rates this week in moves that could save the homeowner with a £150,000 mortgage more than £400 a year.
The cuts in the cost of borrowing come as lenders expect reductions in the Bank of England base rate.

Among the first to feel the benefit will be those taking fixed-rate mortgage deals, but it is likely that lenders will quickly revise their range of discounted and capped rate deals with shifting expectations about interest rates. Last week the typical rate for a two-year fixed-rate deal was around 4.7 per cent. Mortgage brokers now say that within days fixed-rate loan deals could come in as low as 4.3 per cent.

The raft of cut-price loans will be welcomed by hundreds of thousands of borrowers who are drawing to the end of two-year deals taken out when rates were around 3.5 per cent. Until last week, when expectations about interest rates shifted radically in the wake of comments made by Mervyn King, the Governor of the Bank of England, they faced big rises in their monthly repayments.

Borrowers will also be able to choose from a range of new cheaper fixed-rate loans before the Bank of England moves interest rates, thanks to falls that are already taking place in the price of money lent between City institutions. Institutional money market rates, also known as swap rates, have decreased steadily over the past few months. They began to tumble last week, however, after Mr King indicated that there might be a base rate cut.

Some lenders have already lowered the cost of their fixed-rate loans, but many more are expected to follow in the next few days. Simon Tyler, of Chase De Vere, the mortgage broker, said: “Lenders tend to react to a rise or fall in swap rate at different paces. But undoubtedly we will see more lenders cutting the price in the coming days and weeks.”

Newcastle Building Society cut the rate on its two-year fixed-rate loan from 4.67 per cent to 4.49 per cent late last week. Brokers say some lenders may be charging just 4.3 per cent interest by the end of the week. Borrowers, however, should choose their mortgage deal carefully. Lenders have come under fire recently for increasing the arrangement fees, the charges levied by a lender to set up a home loan, and exit penalties on their loans.

Recent research from Your Move, a mortgage broker, showed that homeowners who snap up a low-cost two-year fixed-rate deal must pay an average of £500 in arrangement fees, £200 more than in January last year. Many lenders have also increased the penalty charge for borrowers who switch to a rival lender. Borrowers who have a home loan with Alliance & Leicester must pay £295 if they remortgage with another bank or building society. “Homeowners should scrutinise the charges on their mortgage deal. The fees and charges levied by their lender may erode any savings they make by choosing a low-interest deal,” Mr Tyler said.

Brokers expect mortgage rates to decrease even further before the end of the year.

Ray Boulger, of Charcol, the mortgage broker, said: “This week we will see most of the fall that is likely to happen in the short term, but in six months’ time it is likely that mortgage rates will be lower than they are now.”

03/05/05 - Spring bloom for property market

More house hunters are coming out of the woodwork
UK house prices slowed down slightly in March, enough to lure more house hunters back to the market, according to the latest Hometrack survey.

Average prices fell by 0.1% - the smallest drop for over six months - leaving the average price of a property in England and Wales at £162,300.

Agreed home sales rose by 16.5% and the amount of time it took to sell a house fell from 7.6 weeks to 7.4 weeks.

The largest price falls were in Northumberland and South Yorkshire.

Meanwhile, London and Derbyshire enjoyed the biggest rises in house prices.

Buyers return

The property research company noted that the number of buyers registered on estate agents' books rose by 6.2% on the month, only the second time that the number of buyers registered has risen since May last year.

  Buyers are no longer getting the discounts off the asking prices they were earlier in the year, again suggesting the market is improving

John Wriglesworth, Hometrack

As a result, any discounts being negotiated on asking prices have dropped.

Despite the 0.1% drop in March, house price deflation over the past nine months looks set to end, Hometrack believes.

Chancellor Gordon Brown's decision to raise the stamp duty thresholds in the Budget is expected to lift buyer confidence and inject a bit more life into the market.

And interest rates look set to remain stable in the months leading up to a probable May election.

"An increase in the number of buyers, helping boost the number of sales agreed, points to a much stronger market in the coming months," said Hometrack's housing economist John Wriglesworth.

"Buyers are no longer getting the discounts off the asking prices they were earlier in the year, again suggesting the market is improving."

12/04/05 - House prices stage rise in March

However, annual price inflation continued to slow, dropping to 9.7% in March - the first time it had slipped below 10% since November 2001.

The figures contrast with Nationwide's March figures, which showed a 0.6% fall - the largest in almost 10 years.

Halifax said the market was now stabilising and prices were largely static at a national level.

Mixed picture

"The picture on a month-to-month basis remains mixed with four rises and four falls in the past eight months," said Martin Ellis, Halifax's chief economist.

There are increasing signs that activity levels are now stabilising and house prices are broadly static at a national level
Martin Ellis, Halifax economist

"Overall, however, there has been virtually no change in UK house prices since last September."

Earlier this month, Nationwide said that house prices were 7.9% higher in March than a year ago.

It argued that the housing market was in the middle of a "soft landing".

Overall stability

Halifax said that the average price of a UK home was a seasonally adjusted £164,714 in March, up from £162,816 in February.

Regionally, the strongest gains in the first three months of the year were in Scotland ( 6.1%), Northern Ireland ( 3.1%) and Wales (2.4%).

Average house prices broke through the £100,000 mark in Scotland for the first time in March.

The weakest areas for house price growth were the south-west of England (down 1.2%), East Anglia (down 0.9%) and the north of England (down 0.6%).

House prices in London rose by 0.1% in the first quarter of 2005 on the back of two quarterly falls in a row, indicating a stable market in the capital, the Halifax said.

"There are increasing signs that activity levels are now stabilising and house prices are now broadly static at a national level," the Halifax's Martin Ellis said.

A recent survey from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) found that agreed home sales rose in the first two months of 2005.

This was the first consecutive rise in agreed sales since last spring.

The RICS also said the amount of property coming onto the market was at its highest level in February since May 2003.

07/04/05 - Serial remortgagers can save thousands

A study by Purely Mortgages, an online brokerage, calculated that a borrower with a £100,000 interest-only mortgage, remortgaging every two years for ten years to get a better deal, would have paid out £10,000 less in interest over the decade than someone who never remortgaged.

This figure rises to £20,000 for those who bought more than 20 years ago and regularly remortgaged. However, despite this, six out of ten homeowners who bought their first property more than a decade ago and have not moved have never remortgaged.

Some 56 per cent of these bought their first property more than 20 years ago, during which time base rates peaked at almost 15 per cent, in 1989. Mark Chilton, the chief executive of Purely Mortgages, said: “The majority of endowment policies were sold in the 1980s, yet worryingly it is people who bought around this time that have lost most by not remortgaging.

“These borrowers will not only have paid more for their mortgage than necessary but may still be facing an endowment shortfall.”

The company’s calculations reveal that someone with five years left on a £100,000 interest-only mortgage, paying a standard variable rate of 6.75 per cent and remortgaging to the best five-year fixed-rate deal (about 4.8 per cent) for the rest of the term will save almost £10,000 in interest payments, which they could then use to help to make up an endowment shortfall.

About 3.6 million homeowners who have not remortgaged would be tempted to do so only if they moved house and 85 per cent of people over 50 would not automatically remortgage, the research found. 

Article from Timesonline

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