While the interest rate increased from 0.25% to 0.5% in November last year, it still at one of its lowest values in history and is highly-favourable for potential homeowners who are trying to get their foot on the housing ladder. While the marginal change in the interest might have some consumers tightening their belts slightly, historically 0.5% is still one of the lowest interest rates the British home buyer has had to endure.
From 1971 until this year the interest rate in the UK has averaged 7.59%, reaching an all-time high of 17% in November 1979 and the record low of 0.25% in August 2016. In July 2007, the official bank interest rate was 5.75%, which means that from that date up until November last year, the bank’s base interest rate had dropped by 5.5%. Even with the 0.25% increase, homeowners who purchased their property with a mortgage within the last decade are paying less for their home now, than they did when they first bought it. Bearing in mind that banks will generally grant mortgages at an interest rate around 2% to 3% above the base rate, on a repayment mortgage of £200,000 over a period of 25 years at 7.75% (base rate of 5.75% plus 2%), the monthly repayment would have been £1,511 with a total repayment of £453,149. The same mortgage at an interest rate of 2.5% (base rate of 0.5% plus 2%) would cost £897 a month with a total repayment of £269,204.
While there are markets such as prime central London, where the majority of home sales are cash buyers, for the most part, prospective homeowners around the country are dependent on mortgages to purchase a property. A low-interest rate will help build consumer confidence and increase their chances of getting into the market. High-interest rates widen the gap for prospective homebuyers to meet the necessary criteria that mortgage lenders require for the applicant to obtain the finance. They also mean that applicants may have to opt for a lower mortgage amount, which could result in them having to choose a smaller home or perhaps one outside of their ideal location. Very often, high-interest rates push lower-income earners out of the market completely.
Another advantage of the current favourable interest rate is there may be some room in consumer’s budgets to pay extra into their mortgage to reduce the term of the loan and pay the property off faster. This will, however, depend on the lender and their policies and fees with regard to overpayment. Most lenders will allow homeowners to overpay 10% per year if they are still in their introductory fixed, tracker or discount period. Usually, once this period has passed, you will be able to overpay as much as you want, but again this depends on the lender and their policies, so best to clarify beforehand.
At the moment the UK is among the top fifteen countries in the world with the lowest interest rates. While there are talks of the interest rate going up in the future, for the time being, UK citizens should make the most of the current circumstances and place themselves in the best possible position to get into the property market.