High mortgage rates and slowing house prices in many areas of the country mean that buying a property is even more nerve-racking than usual.
With new fixed-rate deals still steep, and the current economic climate uncertain, taking the plunge isn’t looking very tempting at the moment.
If you think property prices are likely to fall further in months to come, and are hoping that mortgage rates will come down, you might be considering postponing your purchase. On the other hand, if you feel that rates could get worse before they get better, or you’ve had a change in circumstances that means you need to move, you might be feeling pressed to buy as soon as possible.
It’s hard to know exactly what to do, especially as none of us knows what the future holds, but to help you make the decision, we’ve put together this article with some points to consider.
Mortgage market overview
The average asking price for a property was £259,423 in October, according to the latest figures from Nationwide Building Society, down from a peak of £273,751 in August last year. House prices could continue to fall over the next few months, particularly if demand stays low.
Some lenders have tightened their criteria however, requiring bigger deposits and anticipating higher monthly bills from applicants amidst the cost of living crisis, making it harder to obtain a mortgage full stop. Read more about this in our article Is it getting harder to get a mortgage?
Meanwhile, the average rate on a two year fixed-rate deal has reached 6.47% according to Moneyfactscompare.co.uk, and 5.97% for five year fixed-rates, although best buy rates are much lower than this provided you have a substantial deposit to put down. Lenders have started to cut rates slightly as inflation has started to ease. Some commentators are optimistic that lenders may continue to reduce rates in the coming weeks and months, particularly if the Bank of England doesn’t continue to hike interest rates. But others expect they may generally remain high for some time to come before they get better.
Do you own property already or are you buying for the first time?
One important variable that might make a difference to your decision is if you’re already on the property ladder, or you’re buying for the first time.
If you’re a first time buyer, and don’t have to buy now, you may be better off continuing to rent for now and waiting to see how things unfold. With the market so volatile, there’s a chance you could regret throwing your hat into the ring too soon, particularly if property prices end up falling and interest rates go down.
If you already own a property and are thinking about moving, then chances are you’re paying off your current mortgage on your lender’s SVR. While there’s no surefire way of telling which way the market will move next, SVRs are already painfully high, with the average SVR currently at an eye-watering 8.18%.
This could be an argument for closing on a new property sooner rather than later, as even though your new fixed-rate deal will probably be at a high rate, it will stay put once you have it, and it’s very unlikely to be as steep as the SVR. However, depending on your circumstances, this might be a better argument for remortgaging your current property than buying a new one altogether. Read more in our article When is the best time to remortgage?
Do you have a particular property in mind?
Another factor to consider is how far along in the homebuying process you are. If you’re toying with the idea of buying a home but aren’t sure, then you might well be better off waiting.
On the other hand, if you are not only committed to buying but have your eye on a specific property that you really want, you could stand to benefit the most from buying now. The perfect home doesn’t come around often, particularly with a very limited amount of affordable properties on the market in the first place. Biting the bullet and buying now might see you net a higher price and fixed rate than you would’ve gotten a year ago, but is likely preferable to buying it a few months later for even more – or losing out on the property altogether.
On the other hand, if you don’t have your eye on a particular property, or are considering one that you’re not really sure about, then you shouldn’t force yourself to settle because you’re worried about missing out. Buying a property is always an enormous commitment, especially if you intend to stay there for the rest of your life, so if you can afford not to rush – don’t.
For tips on how to avoid settling too soon and more, read our article 11 Common mistakes homebuyers make (and how to avoid them).
Do you have a timeframe that you need to buy within?
Of course, waiting isn’t always a luxury that we have when it comes to finding a place to live. If there’s a particular time frame that you have for buying – perhaps because your relationship has ended and you need to move, or you’re renting and have already handed in your notice to your landlord, or because you need to downsize to free up some capital – this might factor into your decision. Find out more about divorce and your home in our guide Splitting the family home and mortgage during divorce, dissolution or separation.
However, it bears repeating that you shouldn’t let yourself be rushed into buying a place that isn’t right for you. If you want or need to move out soon but can’t find the right place to buy, it would probably be much wiser to try and rent somewhere for a while and take your time choosing a property. For more guidance, read our article Renting or buying – which is right for you?
Have you explored ways to bring down potential mortgage costs?
If you’re worried about buying because of high mortgage rates, and you have some savings which you’re not putting towards your property purchase as you want to keep a financial buffer available, you might want to look at ways you might be able to reduce your monthly costs.
For example, you might want to think about lengthening your mortgage term to keep your monthly payments down. Bear in mind, however, that you’ll end up paying more interest overall if you do this, and you’ll need to prove to lenders that you’ll be able to keep up with your repayments into retirement. You can find out more in our guide Mortgages for over 50s: what you need to know.
Another option you could potentially explore might be an offset mortgage, a unique kind of product that lets you link your mortgage with a savings account that you have with the same bank or building society. Doing so means that you effectively give up your ability to earn interest on your savings, but in exchange you can reduce the interest that you need to pay on your loan, or even shorten your mortgage term.
Offset mortgages usually have slightly higher rates than a typical mortgage, but could save you money in the long run if you stand to save more on your repayments than you would earn in interest on your savings. If you are very keen to buy a property, have a decent amount of savings to offset and are looking for ways to make repaying your mortgage a bit more affordable, this could be an option for you to consider. Read more in our article What is an offset mortgage?
Have you received mortgage advice?
Ultimately, there is no universal right answer to the question of when the best time to buy property is. Not only is the market incredibly unpredictable, especially right now, but everyone’s circumstances are so different that there will never be a one-size-fits-all solution.
While not every expert can agree on where the mortgage market is headed, there’s one thing they will all agree on: you should seek advice before you make a decision.
Teddy Cenaj, mortgages expert at Rest Less Mortgages, said: “The current markets are really tough to navigate at the moment – everyone’s circumstances are different, and what you do will heavily depend on those. The best chance you have to navigate the current market is to speak to a broker who has access to the whole market and they can advise on the best solution for you, whether that’s to consider waiting or making a move”.
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 residential, retirement interest-only, equity release and buy-to-let mortgages.
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