When it comes to taking out a new mortgage, or remortgaging an existing property, it can be hard to know how to get the best deal.
Should you go direct to your bank? Or should you shop around online? Perhaps you may be considering using a mortgage advisor, but don’t know if it’s worth the effort?
Unlike most everyday financial products, mortgages can have a complex set of acceptance criteria. In addition to using your credit score to make an assessment, lenders also have a range of other affordability criteria they look at, including your income and earnings, the loan to property value ratio you are looking to borrow and a number of specific criteria around the property itself. This means that many people don’t know exactly how much they can borrow, or which deals they’re likely to be eligible for.
The good news is that there is plenty of free advice available if you know where to look. In this article, we explore some of the options available to you, to help you find your way through the mortgage maze.
When should I seek mortgage advice?
If you’re buying a property for the first time, perhaps because you’ve always rented previously, an advisor can not only help you work out which deals are right for you, but can also support you throughout the application process.
Advice can also prove invaluable if you’re moving home, and your existing mortgage deal isn’t portable, or if you need to borrow additional funds. An advisor can help you decide whether it’s worth redeeming your existing mortgage, or if you’d be better off sticking with your current provider.
Similarly, if you’re remortgaging, or thinking about purchasing a buy-to-let property, an advisor can do all the sums on your behalf, helping you find the deals you’ll be eligible for, and which will suit you best based on your individual circumstances.
You can find out more about all the different mortgage options that may be available to you, and how they compare, in our articles Mortgages for over 50s: What you need to know and Mortgages for over 60s: what you need to know.
How do I find a mortgage advisor?
If you’re remortgaging, talking to your current lender can be a good place to start. They will be able to let you know how much you can save by switching to a new deal, and may offer preferable rates to existing customers. Knowing what they can offer you gives you a good basis for comparison when you start shopping around elsewhere.
If you do decide to stick with your current lender, this may make the remortgaging process more straightforward as you’re unlikely to have to go through all the same identity and other checks that you’d need to go through if you went to a new lender. Whilst it may be the most straightforward route, it is important to remember that it’s unlikely (although not impossible) that your existing lender will happen to offer you the cheapest deal available on the market. You can see how competitive it is by comparing mortgage rates from the whole of the market with our mortgage comparison tool.
If you haven’t taken out a mortgage before, you may want to speak to the bank or building society where you hold your current account, as they will know how you manage your finances and can tell you which of their mortgages you might be eligible for.
Approach different lenders
You can also get advice on the deals you’re eligible for by approaching different mortgage lenders to see what they can offer you.
However, the downside of taking this route is that they will only be able to advise on their own specific deals, so you’ll have to speak to lots of different lenders if you want to compare a range of options. Many will require you to get mortgage ‘advice’ from their internal mortgage advisors before they can confirm your eligibility which can be very time-consuming. Even if you do talk to several lenders, you’ll still only be getting access to a relatively narrow selection of deals rather than being able to compare mortgages across the whole of the market.
Seek advice from a mortgage broker
A mortgage broker must have qualifications that are recognised by the financial regulator the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). They will have a broad knowledge of all the different types of mortgages that are available and will be able to recommend the best deal for you based on your individual circumstances. They will also be able to advise you how much you’re likely to be able to borrow, and can crunch all the numbers on your behalf so you can see exactly how much different mortgage deals will cost you.
Another benefit of using a broker is that they will often have access to exclusive mortgage deals that may not be available by going directly to lenders. It can also mean that if the mortgage they recommend to you turns out to be unsuitable, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman and potentially seek compensation. If you go it alone and choose a mortgage without advice, you won’t have this option.
When choosing a broker, it’s important to check the following:
1). How much will their advice cost?
Before you appoint a mortgage broker to help you, check how much, if anything, you’ll have to pay them for their advice.
Almost all mortgage brokers get paid a commission from the lender they recommend to you, the details of which have to be clearly detailed to you with any recommendation they provide as part of a Key Facts Document. Perhaps counter-intuitively, these charges do not usually increase the ‘cost’ of the mortgage deal you are offered.
Some brokers charge an additional fee for their advice and this can be charged in one of several different ways. For example, they may charge you a fixed fee of £495, or they might charge you by the hour. Alternatively, they might charge you a percentage of the amount you are borrowing. For example, if they charge 1% of your mortgage amount, and you want to borrow £150,000, you would have to pay them £1,500.
An increasing number of mortgage brokers offer a fee-free service however, which means you don’t have to pay them a penny for their advice. Instead, they rely purely on the commission they receive from the lender whose mortgage they’ve recommended to you. It’s important to stress that almost all mortgage brokers receive these commissions – some just choose to charge a fee on top.
2). What does their service include?
Check exactly what sort of service you’ll receive from any broker you’re considering using. This includes finding out whether they offer access to the whole of the market, or whether they only look at deals from a limited number of lenders.
Most brokers will appoint a dedicated case manager who will support you throughout the application process. They will be able to tell you exactly what information you’ll need to provide your lender with and can chase them on your behalf if there are any unexpected delays. You can often track the progress of your application online.
3). What are their reviews like?
It’s worth checking out customer reviews of the broker you’re planning to seek advice from, so you can see whether other borrowers have had a positive or negative experience with them. Review sites such as Trustpilot enable you to search for companies and see how customers have ranked them from one to five, and to read their reviews on the service they’ve received.
Where can I get mortgage advice?
Speaking to an experienced mortgage advisor can help you to understand your options and get a great deal on your mortgage. If you’re looking for somewhere to start, you can speak to a Rest Less Mortgages advisor and get high quality advice** on standard, retirement interest-only and buy-to-let mortgages.
If you’re looking for advice on taking money out of your home with equity release rather than by remortgaging, it’s a legal requirement to speak to a specialist equity release advisor – you can read more in our Guide to equity release.
If you’re looking for somewhere to start, you can get fee-free expert advice from a Rest Less Mortgages equity release specialist, with no broker fees on application. They are active members of the ERC and can advise on equity release mortgages from the whole of the market. They’ll listen to your needs and talk you through your options, so you can decide if equity release is the right option for you.
What’s the difference between a mortgage advisor and a mortgage broker?
Essentially there isn’t one, both have to be regulated mortgage advisors with the FCA and the terms are used interchangeably in the industry. The term broker was used more historically, before the concept of regulated financial advice became the norm and agents simply ‘brokered’ a deal for you – today both brokers and advisors are qualified professionals and provide regulated mortgage advice, but the name broker has stayed around.
Have you recently applied for a mortgage or remortgage and used a broker? How did you find the experience? We’d be interested in hearing from you. You can join the money conversation on the Rest Less community or leave a comment below.