Lesley | Edited by Johanna
Updated February 2017
Before you start looking at rates, you not only need to polish up your credit report but you also need to learn some tactics to make sure you get the best rate.
Remortgaging does require a little bit of effort on your part but could generate a lot of savings. Here are our top tips to make the process as smooth as possible.
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Check remortgage rates early – it can take time to find the best deal
To maximise your chances of getting the top rate possible, you want to start looking at rates 14 or so weeks before you want the remortgage to actually complete.
Don't panic if you don't have that much time, just get started as soon as you can. When it comes to remortgages, don't loyally stick to your current lender – though it is always worth checking its rates to give you a benchmark, as if it has a competitive deal, it's much less hassle when you remortgage.
But, don't automatically renew. Always search what's out there, as you could make £1,000s of savings. See the market's top rates with our Mortgage Best Buys tool.
Once you successfully apply to a lender, you receive an offer with an expiry date. This effectively means the offer can sit and wait for you to action it, effectively reserving the rate for you.
If you're locked in to your current deal for another three to seven months (ie, there are big fees to switch), you could secure a rate now to use months later to protect against the threat of rate rises.
It can give you peace of mind as you'd be locking in to what are low rates now, but the risk is if better deals emerge in the meantime you might have been better to have waited. And as you'll almost certainly pay fees to get a new deal now, think of them as an insurance policy against rising rates.
We say three to seven months as lenders usually release mortgage cash to you up to three months after you apply or have your offer issued, so anything up to three months away you can do now anyway. But most major banks go up to six or seven months – though only on some of their deals. Importantly, we're not saying do it. We're saying weigh up the cost – for many it's best doing that with a broker. Key info is below...
This is a complex subject so we've asked David Hollingworth from broker L&C to check the info out. Many thanks to him for that.
There's a risk rates will rise – check if there's a deal worth securing NOW (if not, don't do it)
While there are no guarantees, there are genuine fears mortgage rates could rise in the next few months – and we've already seen the very best deals pulled recently.
So if your remortgage is due in three to seven months, there's a chance you won't be able to find today's cheap mortgage rates then, which is why it's worth at least checking if there's a deal available now you'd be happy with that you could use when your current deal ends.
What is the cost of locking in to a deal now to use months later?
It's generally the fees – booking/application, legal, valuation and broker fees – that you are contracted to pay even if you decide to pull out of the deal.
The level of fees and whether you're contracted to pay them depends on the deal, and there are a myriad of scenarios.
- Application fees. Some lenders charge a lot (£1,500ish); some nothing. Where there is a fee, in some cases you may not have to pay it until mortgage completion, so it won't pose a risk to locking a rate in. Within many lenders' product ranges, think of the relationship between the rate and fee as a set of weighing scales. The higher the rate, the lower the fee, and vice versa. As long as it's still a good deal, for some it may be best to grab a lower fee with a higher rate (and that makes this trick less risky anyway).
- Legal and valuation fees. Some lenders throw these in free on remortgages. If not, they can hit £1,000+ but it often depends on your home's value.
- Broker fees. If you use a broker, some charge a fee, though sometimes you only pay this when you complete (ie, when you actually take the new mortgage). In that scenario, there's no risk of losing this fee if you pull out before completion.
See our Mortgage Fees guide for more on how they work.
Are there cheap deals available to use months ahead?
We checked with L&C and it told us there are cheap mortgages that let you lock in now to use the cash in up to six months' time, eg, a 1.3% two-year fix on a 60% loan to value (follow the link for an LTV explanation) with a £995 application fee; or a 1.78% five-year fix with a £995 application fee, also on a 60% LTV. Both include free legal and valuation.
The deals above are not necessarily best for everyone, but are still decent.
What's the risk of doing this?
The main risk is if better deals emerge in the meantime you'd have been better to wait. If so, the cost to you is either:
- You'd lose the fees paid now if you dump the reserved deal for a new one.
- The extra monthly payments on the reserved deal versus those had you waited for the better new deal.
If you can find a decent rate with low fees, which you can lock in many months ahead, the risk of doing this is lower as you could pull out without losing much.
Of course, if rates rise, you're quids in, because you've locked yourself in to a good deal.
Here's an example of what might happen:
Imagine Savvy Sally has a £150,000 mortgage ending in June 2017. There's currently a five-year fix for 1.84% but she can't lock in to that so far ahead. However, she has seen a 1.89% five-year fix that means £7,536 in payments a year (assuming it's a repayment mortgage) that she can lock in to now, for six months ahead.
It has a fairly standard £999 reservation fee and it has free legal and valuation fees, so she goes for it.
If rates rise to 3% in April, she's laughing – as she's locked in at a much lower level. But if rates drop further, she discovers she can get a 1.5% no-fee deal which costs her £7,200 in payments a year – that's a whopping £1,680 less over the mortgage term.
She says: "Fair enough, I had the protection", and takes the £999 hit, but at least had the peace of mind. She could then switch to the lower 1.5% deal.
What if house prices fall? Can I still keep the rate I've secured? Yes, once you're accepted, the lender is committed to that rate (as long as the valuation report hasn't expired) unless you decide you don't want it.
What if I lose my job or my salary drops after the mortgage offer but before I take the cash? Can the lender pull the offer? You're obliged to tell the lender if that happens before it releases any cash to you. However, it can also pull the mortgage offer.
What about other changes of circumstances, such as getting divorced? As above, you're obliged to inform the lender, and depending on circumstances it may choose to pull its offer.
Does this affect my credit history? Every time you apply for a mortgage there'll be an application search of your credit report. So if you dump one and make another application with a different lender, that can have a minor impact on your credit history. See full info on the impact of mortgage applications on your credit history.
If you dump your reserved mortgage, try to do it at least three weeks before your current mortgage is up. It can take that long to get a new deal, and being quick saves you going onto what may be an expensive standard variable rate.
So how do I find a deal like this? (Brokers tend to be the safest option.)
Rates may be at rock-bottom, but many factors affect what's YOUR best. So bash all your info into our Remortgage Best-Buys Comparison tool to first get a benchmark for your top deal.
But we suggest that unless you're a mortgage expert to use a broker to proceed any further. See the top mortgage brokers section for help finding a good one.
We say this because:
- These deals can be hard to find as lenders often vary how long you can lock in a rate for, even within their own range. Brokers are likely to know which you can hold for months.
- There are risks and different future scenarios to consider, which a broker can advise you on.
- Brokers have info that is often difficult to find, eg, lenders' credit and affordability criteria. So a good broker can ease acceptance by matching you to the right deal.
For reference, here's the maximum time after applying that major lenders let you use mortgage cash. Crucially, the timescales won't apply to all their deals so it's vital to check first.
HOW FAR IN ADVANCE YOU CAN LOCK IN A MORTGAGE OFFER
|Lender||Max time from mortgage offer (1)|
|Bank of Scotland||7mths|
|Royal Bank of Scotland||6mths|
|Yorkshire Building Society||6mths|
|Clydesdale Bank||180 days|
|Coventry Building Society||4mths (2)|
|Virgin Money||16 weeks|
|Nationwide Building Society||90 days|
|(1) Max time won't apply on all that lender's deals. Time stated is after the mortgage offer, unless otherwise stated. (2) From date of application. (3) From paying booking fee.|
Play the field to find the top rate
Starting the search early means you can find and reserve a top rate as a safety net. Then as time progresses, if a more attractive rate becomes available...bye bye lender X, hello lender Y. But there are three things you need to watch out for...
If you spend money on lender X, don't expect to get it back if you dump it for someone else.
Carefully weigh up the benefit of reserving a rate against the cost of losing any upfront fees. Thankfully not every lender charges these.
Don't tell lender X you're interested in someone else until you've definitely got lender Y in the bag.
If you have a rate reserved and decide to chase another, it's probably best not to tell the first lender until you're definitely ditching it. Wait until you have a formal mortgage offer from lender Y before you burn any bridges.
Don't get a reputation.
You can't have them all. Ideally you wouldn't want to apply for more than three. Every time you apply a search goes on your credit report, which future lenders can see. If they see lots of applications, they'll think you're that drunk in the bar asking everyone out and getting rejected all over the place...not attractive.
Playing the field takes a bit more effort, so you might want to use a broker to do this slog for you. If you're using a broker, make sure it re-checks the market just before you commit in case rates have improved – do NOT assume it will do this automatically.
Can you borrow the amount you need?
Lenders used to multiply your main income by up to five times to work out your maximum remortgage size. Now it's a lot more complicated as the lender has to be sure you can afford the repayments. Use our How Much Can I Borrow? calculator to estimate how much you might be able to borrow, though see it only as a rough guide, as that figure will come down the more committed expenses and debts you have.
Each lender has a different formula when it calculates how much it'll lend you. It will add up your basic salary and a proportion of other types of income, including bonuses, commission, benefits and second jobs.
It will then look at your outgoings, such as debt repayments, maintenance payments, school fees, utilities, food shopping etc to work out your disposable income. Your disposable income needs to not only cover the new mortgage payment, but cover the mortgage payment if the rate was to rise to 6 or 7%. This is to build in a cushion for any rate rises.
The lender will consider your debts and outgoings, such as debt repayments, maintenance payments, school fees etc. It may reduce its initial figure to make sure you can afford it – plus it'll want to see enough breathing room in case of unforeseen events.
Pick your remortgage date to avoid fees
Many mortgages have an early repayment charge for the initial incentive period. If you remortgage during this period, you'll trigger the charge and it's usually thousands of pounds.
Check if yours has one. If it doesn't, you're free to remortgage at any time.
If it does, and you don't want to pay the charge, remortgage for the next working day after your current mortgage ends and you're free from penalties.
If that's not for a while, and you have reason to remortgage other than reaching the end of your current deal, find out how much the charge is. This way, you can work out if it's financially viable ditching your old deal. For more on the costs of remortgaging see our How Much Will Remortgaging Cost? guide.
Get the exact figure you owe so you don't end up with a shortfall
Don't just guess. Phone and ask "How much would I need to pay to clear the mortgage on, for example, 1 July 2017?"
Giving the date means the lender should take into account any repayments you are due to make between now and then (so tell it if you plan any overpayments).
This will give you an exact figure of the amount you'll need to borrow when remortgaging. Don't rely on a rough estimate of your own as it could mean you end up with a shortfall or taking a pricier remortgage than you needed to.
You should also ask:
Does that include an early repayment charge? If so, how much and on what date could I repay the mortgage without a charge?
Does that include any other fees, such as an admin fee – sometimes called an 'exit fee' or 'deeds release fee'? If so, how much?
The lender should only charge you these fees if you were told about it when you first took out the mortgage. It would need to be on the offer document and the Key Facts Illustration. For more on fees see our How Much Will Remortgaging Cost? guide.
Self-employed? You'll have more hoops to jump through...
If you're self-employed or would struggle to prove your long-term income – you're a contractor, for example – getting accepted for a remortgage is tougher. You'll need to show:
You need to show preferably three years of accounts – though two can suffice – usually signed off by a chartered accountant. Or...
If you can't show business accounts then two or three years' tax returns are the next best option.
You'll be assessed on net profits, not turnover. If this is likely to be complex, using a mortgage broker could help as they'll know which lenders require what evidence.
While this can work for those in established businesses, it could mean that if you've become self employed since getting your last mortgage and it's a recent change, you simply won't be able to remortgage.
Note that self-cert mortgages – mortgages where you declare your own income and the lender doesn't require proof, common in the mid-noughties – are no longer available.
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Estimate your property's value
Before you can start to look at rates, you need to get a view on what your property is worth. It does need to be realistic as when you apply for a mortgage the lender will send out an independent valuer to confirm the figure.
Don't just a pluck a figure out of the air. Do some research – use our Free House Price Valuations guide to help.
Calculate how much of your home you own
Once you've figured out how much your property might be worth now, you'll be able to calculate what proportion of that value you still owe on your mortgage (and know how much equity you have in your home) your so-called loan-to-value ratio (LTV) – and therefore what LTV band deals you're looking at for your remortgage.
It's easy to get this figure – just divide the amount you still owe on your mortgage by your home's current value. Times the figure you get by 100, and that's your LTV as a percentage. So, if you owe £150,000 on a £200,000 house, that's a 75% LTV.
Bear in mind that your LTV ratio now might be wildly different from when you got a mortgage the last time. If your property's gone up in price, it's likely you'll have dropped an LTV band or two. If it's now worth less than it was, you may be looking at a higher LTV band.
LTV is important. The more equity you have in your property (the amount you own debt free), the lower the mortgage rate you'll get.
Try to drop an LTV band – it'll make it cheaper
If you still owe more than 60% of your home's value on a mortgage, the more you can do to drop an LTV band, the cheaper your remortgage will be. The main pricing bands are: 95%, 90%, 85%, 80%, 75%, 70%, 65% and 60%.
There are two things you can do to get into a lower LTV band. You could:
Putting some of your own money in at the point of remortgaging is well worth doing if you're really close to the next band.
Try to get a higher valuation figure
How much more would your property need to value at to push you down another band? An extra £1,000 in value could make all the difference.
How can you get a better valuation?
This is more art than science, it might work for you, or it might not. But if you don't ask, you don't get, so it's worth doing a little bit of legwork.
Set the valuer's expectation high.
Always put the top valuation you think the property could achieve on your application.
Take a good look at your home.
Does it look tidy and well cared for? Maybe get a particularly house proud friend to take a look as it's amazing what you don't notice when you see the place everyday.
If possible, be at the valuation.
Sometimes this isn't an option as the valuer might just look at the exterior so you won't be given an appointment time. Sometimes they don't even attend the property but rely on their database and the internet.
It's likely if they do come round they'll be on a tight schedule, so don't be put off if they don't sit down for a cup of tea.
Give the valuer comparisons.
Tell the valuer about similar properties to yours that sold for big money. Valuers rely on these 'comparisons' to justify their valuation. Properties that have sold will carry more weight than properties that are advertised, or under offer.
A word of warning here. Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. You need to be ready for the valuer not agreeing with your figure.
If this happens and it pushes you into a different LTV band, you might find that the lender you've applied to might not offer the best rate for your new LTV. This means you might be better off applying to another lender. But weigh up the costs of any delays or any fees you've paid upfront before jumping ship.
Check your credit reports are correct
You'll likely have done this when applying for your first mortgage, but it's just as important when you're remortgaging.
Of course, there's another major factor in your favour – the fact that you're already paying a mortgage, and making all payments on time (well, we hope you are).
But this effort could all be for nothing if the rest of your credit file's a mess. So check Equifax, Experian and Callcredit for your credit files.Your chosen mortgage lender could look you up on any of the three files, so it's worth checking them all.
Check all of these aspects:
- Are all your credit accounts and repayments are correctly listed?
- Are you (and anyone you're applying with) on the electoral roll?
- Explain any defaults or other black marks on your file
- Is anyone else's financial record linked to yours? If it's no longer a current link, ask for a notice of dissociation.
Do all this at least two months in advance of applying for your new mortgage. If there is anything you need to correct, it could easily take this long to do it.
For more information on how to manage and boost your credit score to up your chances of getting the best mortgage deal read our Boost Your Mortgage Chances guide.
Sort out your finances & get remortgage ready
It's all very well having a perfect credit record, but if your finances are all over the shop, your mortgage lender's going to want to know why.
There are a few things you should (or shouldn't) be doing in the weeks and months before you apply for a remortgage deal:
- Don't apply for credit just before a mortgage
- Avoid erratic or heavy spending in the weeks before you apply
- Stay out of your overdraft
Lenders like to see that you're managing your money well, and – more importantly – that you have enough cash to repay them each month. Buying large items and dipping in and out of your overdraft won't mark you as a reliable borrower.
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Sort your paperwork to speed up the process
Remember all the paperwork you had to get together when you applied for your last mortgage? Yep, you've got to produce it all again...
Many lenders won't take printed internet statements so if you've gone paperless, you may need your bank(s) to send you original copies. Prepare these a few weeks in advance in case you need to wait for your bank or HM Revenue & Customs to send originals.
Your lender may want to see any, or all of:
- Your last three months' bank statements
- Your last three months' pay slips
- If self-employed: your last three years' accounts/tax returns
- Proof of bonuses/commission
- Your latest P60 tax form (showing income and tax paid from each tax year)
- ID documents (usually a passport)
- Proof of address (eg, utility bills or credit card bills)
Getting the paperwork the lender needs sent in one batch can speed up the process. It also reduces the chances of your application being reviewed by more people.
Rejected? Throwing yourself at the next lender's feet will only make it worse
If you're rejected – FREEZE! Don't automatically apply again with a different lender. Too many applications will mess up your credit score, so don't do it. Instead, the first thing to do is to check your credit file again. Could you have missed something?
At all costs, avoid the rejection spiral. The nightmare example works like this:
- You apply
- You get rejected (sometimes falsely, due to an error)
- You apply elsewhere
- You get rejected again
This continues, until finally you check your files and get the error corrected. So...
- You apply again
- You're rejected because of recent 'searches'
If you're rejected once, immediately go to the top of this guide and follow the steps we've set out, otherwise you may mess up your score as more applications mean more searches, which will compound the problem.
If you haven't missed anything and your credit report's still looking good, it could just be that the lender you applied to had its own reason for turning you down. It's worth asking the lender.
It should indicate to you the main reason you were turned down – and will tell you if that was the credit check. For more information read our Credit Score guide.