Cheap Mortgage Finding
How to find the best deal for you
Getting the right mortgage or remortgage deal can save you £100s each month. But it can be a nightmare knowing how to get it spot on – especially during these uncertain times – without the advice of a qualified mortgage broker. To help navigate the mortgage maze, here's our step-by-step guide outlining how to find the best mortgage deal for you.
1 min read: How to find your top mortgage deal
If you understand mortgages and just want to find a deal, we've the key links here in this 1 min read, or read the full guide for more help on this. But if you need to brush up on the mortgage basics, such as what an LTV is or how credit scoring works, read our Remortgage or First-time Buyer guides.
1. Benchmark YOUR top deal in two mins. Use our Mortgage comparison tool to see what's out there for your situation, including those deals that are only available directly from lenders.
2. Then use a broker to help match you with the best deals you'll be accepted for, incl those exclusive to brokers. They often have access to special deals that aren’t directly available to customers, plus they'll know which lenders are most likely to lend to you. Here’s a list of some top brokers (there's nowt wrong with talking to more than one), all fee-free:
- London & Country*. A phone and online broker that doesn't quite search as many deals as Habito below, but it has a great track record and that is why we put it first.
- Habito*. Online-only mortgage broker that checks most deals available to brokers plus direct-only deals, but not as well established as London & Country.
- Trinity Financial*. It checks the vast majority of deals available to brokers and it's waived its fee for MSE users.
- Trussle*. Online-only mortgage broker that has access to over 90 lenders as part of Legal & General.
3. Use our range of calculators to do the numbers for you. We've different mortgage calculators to help you work out most things you need, including... Basic mortgage cost calc | Compare two mortgages | Compare fixed-rate mortgages | Ditch your fix? | How much can I borrow? | Mortgage overpayment calc
Step 1: Do a 10-min search for mortgage deals online
Before we begin searching for mortgage deals, we're assuming here that you've a basic understanding of mortgages and what kind you're looking for. If this isn't the case, then why not check out our What type of mortgage to choose guide first?
Once you know what mortgage you want, whether you're going for a fixed, variable, discount or specialist mortgage, you need to start looking at what rates you can get. This will depend on the size of your deposit and the value of the property – you'll likely need at least a 10% deposit as 95% mortgages have been few and far between since coronavirus.
But, in starting your search for the best deal, the first thing you need to know is:
'NEVER just go to your bank for a cheap deal.'
Your existing bank will only give you its tiny range of deals, not the array of alternatives, meaning it's highly unlikely you'll stumble across the best one for you. Only check what it's offering as a starting point.
Benchmark a good mortgage rate using MSE's Best Buys tool
The steps below will help you benchmark a rate – to get a good estimate of what your rate and payments would look like. This is pretty straightforward and shouldn't take you more than 10 minutes.
There are lots of mortgage comparison sites out there, but none guarantees to show you all the deals available. This is because the mortgage market is complicated and some deals are only available through certain brokers, making it very difficult for a comparison site to know about every single deal at all times. But our Mortgage Best Buys tool has all deals available direct, and most available to brokers, so it's a great place to start. Here's how to use our tool:
- Enter your loan amount and property valuation accurately
At the top of the screen when you click onto best buys, you have the opportunity to select if you're a first-time buyer, remortgaging or moving home. You'll also need to put in how much you want to borrow, and how much the property is worth. This calculates your loan-to-value ratio (LTV) and so influences which products you're shown.
- Find the info you need on screen
Even before hitting 'Update Details', there's a lot of information on the screen. Some details are more vital to read than others. The most important information's prominently displayed; choices about your deal are on the left, information about the mortgage products is in the table.
- Buyer type (first-time buyer/remortgage/moving home
- Mortgage type (eg, fixed/variable)
- Initial deal length (eg, two years)
- Interest rate (eg, 1.89%)
- Fees (arrangement, booking and valuation – no others)
- Monthly payment
- Use the filters on the left to choose between fixed mortgages and variable mortgages
If you're already certain, then select the type you want. If you're still not sure, leave all options selected.
- Use the filters on the left to select your initial deal length
The initial deal length is how long your deal will stay at the advertised interest rate. For a fixed mortgage, this is how long the rate is fixed for. For a variable mortgage, this'll be how long a discount applies to the rate. If you know how long a deal you want, pick that from the filter. If not, again, leave them all selected.
- Hit 'Update Details' and find a realistic benchmark
We say realistic, because if you're looking at the product at the top of the table, it's probably not. You're probably looking at a lovely low rate but one with a fairly large fee.
One way around this is to change the sort filter on the right hand side of the tool. You're able to search products by monthly payment, initial rate and set up fees. You can also search by our MSE Total Cost Assessment, which combines the rate and the fees to tell you which will be the cheapest mortgage overall (invariably it's not one with a large fee).
- Choose your deal
Once you've found some deals that suit your circumstances and budget, click 'How to apply' to find out more. This will tell you other information about the product, such as how much you'll need to pay the lender for a valuation, and whether you're allowed to overpay.
- Make a note of the deal
If you're happy, you've got two main options. The first is to contact a broker about the deal (more on this directly below in step two). The broker will be able to check that it actually is the best deal for you by doing a comparison with other deals out there.
Alternatively, if you're confident you've picked a winner, you can go for the second option, which is simply clicking through to the lender to start an application. You can do this by clicking 'Go to lender' whilst you're on the 'How to apply' page.
Don't use the APR to compare – mortgage APR confusion
The best mortgage comparison is to use the rate you'll pay for the incentive period, and also compare over the length of time you think you'll have the mortgage. DON'T compare one mortgage's APR with another.
All lenders have to tell you their APR – the effective averaged annual interest rate if you held your mortgage for the entire term (normally 25 years). This is rather annoying, as it's a rate in most cases you'll never have to pay, so it's meaningless.
If you had a fixed rate at 3.49% for two years, and then the rate it reverted to afterwards was 4.74%, the APR would be around 4.3%.
So why do we say it's mostly meaningless?
- You never pay 4.3%. It's an averaged rate over the entire term
- You're likely to remortgage long before the term ends
- The rate it reverts to (the standard variable rate) is likely to move anyway
What you really need to focus on is the initial discount/fixed rate, the fees and the rate it goes to once your deal has ended.
Step 2: Now talk to a mortgage broker
Once you've benchmarked a good rate from our Mortgage Best Buys tool, it's time to see if a qualified mortgage broker can beat it.
Brokers scour the market to find you a good mortgage deal. By using one, you swiftly cover a huge slew of lenders, and get added clout with them to ease your acceptance as well as an extra layer of protection if things go wrong.
They will also be able to advise you on Government mortgage schemes (incl shared ownership and Help to Buy equity loans) if you're eligible – tell your broker upfront if that's what you're looking for.
Qualified mortgage brokers are also worth their weight in gold, because they know key details about lenders' criteria. So they would know if the lender you're thinking of doesn't lend on properties above shops, or in council blocks – so they'd be able to recommend a different lender who does.
But, the key is to find a broker you're comfortable with. The estate agents you meet when house hunting will often recommend brokers. They may even work from the same office. But you are NOT tied to using these, even if you buy via that estate agent.
Ask friends who've moved for recommendations – many local brokers are fantastic. The aim's to find you the best broker for the lowest possible price. Not all brokers are the same. Some are limited in what they can offer you.
Here are the three crucial questions to ask...
1. Can you get me a mortgage from any UK lender, right now?
This finds out if your broker can source you ANY UK mortgage. Not all can so it's important to know which you're dealing with. Here are some of the possible answers:
- 'No.' Some brokers are tied to one lender or operate off a small panel of lenders, so they search fewer deals. This makes it simpler and cheaper for them to operate.
- 'We check all products available to brokers.' The key point to note here is the last phrase – available to brokers. This used to be called 'whole of market'. Many of these brokers will exclude lenders and products which are only offered directly to the public, mainly as they won't receive a commission. On top, they may not be able to submit an application on your behalf.
- 'We check all lenders.' Some brokers do check lenders' direct-only deals too. However, they are more likely to charge a fee. In reality, it's unlikely a broker could guarantee you access to EVERY mortgage, as exclusive deals can be arranged between lenders and brokers (and clubs that brokers can join).
Just be clear on what your broker is offering. Weigh up the need to check every deal, your willingness to do some legwork yourself, and if you're happy paying a broker fee. Once you've found a broker you're happy with, you need to ask them the next questions to find out if they're the best broker for you.
2. Do you charge a fee?
This tells you how the broker makes their money from your mortgage deal. Brokers have two possible sources of income, which are:
- Commission. Almost all lenders pay brokers what's called a 'procuration fee' of roughly 0.35% of the transaction (£350 per £100,000). This is a commission based on your loan size – and doesn't affect the cost of your mortgage. They are obliged to tell you the exact amount they'll be paid before you apply. You can find this info on the Key Facts illustration, which they must provide before you apply.
- Fees. Brokers may also charge you a fee directly. This might be on top of the commission, or instead of it (ie, they charge a fee and refund you the commission). If they offer you the choice between fee or commission, then they can call themselves 'independent'. If they don't, they can't – which is a bit confusing.
No reputable broker should charge more than around 1% of the mortgage value, even for customers with a poor credit rating. If yours charges more, walk away. Fees can be charged at any point in the process, providing you're told about them at the outset. Yet avoid using any broker who charges you big fees before completion. If the purchase falls through, you'll probably still have to pay.
As this is a MoneySaving site, we've always said our preference is not to pay a fee if you don't have to. For this, you're looking for a fee-free broker (ie, one that makes their money through commission) who can advise on the widest range of mortgages possible.
3. Are you qualified?
You need to find out whether a broker is qualified to advise you. Make sure you're getting advice from a qualified mortgage adviser (the most recognised qualification is called CeMAP). Your broker should assess your needs and eligibility before recommending the most suitable product for you. This route also offers the most protection for you as a consumer.
If the advice turns out to be wrong, the Financial Ombudsman will be able to investigate any wrongdoing. If you chose a product from an information-only service, you'd have no comeback if you made the wrong choice.
Now you know what you're looking for, as we can't review every mortgage broker in the UK, we've concentrated on some of the big ones that have nationwide scope, plus ways to find smaller brokers. Similarly, if you have any doubts about a broker, find a different one – there's nothing wrong with talking to several before you settle on one.
All the mortgage brokers we feature below are fee-free.
Well-established, phone-based, searches all but direct deals
The reason we've put London & Country* first despite doing fewer searches than Habito, which is in second place, is because it's well-established with years of good track record and a solid reputation among MoneySavers. It can also offer advice over the phone if you need.
London & Country will check the vast majority of deals available to brokers, but won't check direct-only deals – you'll need to look for direct-only deals yourself.
Read our full review of London & Country below for why we rate it so highly.
- How do I speak to it? Either online* via this link or by phone on 01225 408000 (please note that L&C's phone lines are very busy at the moment).
- What lenders will it check? All standard deals available through brokers.
- Cost: FREE.
L&C has been a top pick on MSE for many years. We've received consistently strong feedback from people who have used it, and they have a four-and-half-star rating on Trustpilot. We also rate L&C highly because you can speak to it on the phone AND online. If you've used L&C, please let us know about your experiences.
One advantage of only dealing with lenders that make deals available through brokers is that L&C will be able to help you through the whole process, in terms of filling in forms, information and support.
Online-based, searches all lenders including direct-only deals
Online-only mortgage broker Habito* never charges a fee and checks most deals available to brokers as well as direct-only deals, though for these direct deals you’ll have to do the application yourself.
While in theory it searches more deals than London & Country, years of good track record and the fact that it offers advice over the phone means we rank London & Country in the top spot.
Read our full review of Habito below for why we rate it so highly.
- How do I speak to it? Online* via this link.
- What lenders will it check? All UK lenders.
- Cost: FREE.
Launched in 2016, Habito is one of the newer brokers in town. Everything is done online, including submitting paperwork, but a mortgage expert is on hand to support you through the mortgage application process via online chat (or by phone if necessary).
The service is free to you as Habito charges lenders commission. Currently Habito partners with 72 mortgage lenders, but if it finds a mortgage from a lender not on its list, it'll let you know so you can choose whether to go direct.
Habito has a five-star rating on Trustpilot. If you've used Habito, please let us know about your experiences.
Searches many deals and offers face-to-face meetings
London-based broker Trinity Financial* waives its fee for MoneySavingExpert.com users if you follow this link.
Trinity Financial checks the the vast majority of deals available to brokers, as well as those exclusive to Trinity Financial, though it won't check direct-only deals. You can speak directly to its mortgage advisors over the phone to discuss your application, or even face-to-face if necessary.
Read our full review of Trinity Financial below for why we rate it highly.
- How do I speak to it? Phone (although you can use email to arrange a consultation) and via online form.
- What lenders will it check? A wide range of lenders ranging from big banks to small building societies.
- Cost: FREE (its usual fee of £495 is waived if you follow the link above).
Trinity Financial is a well-established broker with over 10 years of experience with a five-star review on Trustpilot. If you've used Trinity Financial, please let us know about your experiences.
The advantage of only dealing with lenders that make deals available through brokers is that Trinity Financial will be able to help you through the whole process, in terms of filling in forms, information and support.
Access to 90+ lenders, offers mortgage in principle
Trussle* is another relative newcomer to the broker market, having launched in 2015. The online-based broker never charges a fee, and works with over 90 mortgage lenders. It doesn't search direct-only deals, but if you find one then Trussle can compare it to the best deals it can find.
While the application process is mainly online, you can speak to a mortgage advisor over email or phone needed. Trussle also offers automated mortgage in principle and mortgage monitoring services.
Read our full review of Trussle below for why we rate it highly.
- How do I speak to it? Online mainly (though via phone is also an option)
- What lenders will it check? All standard UK deals available to brokers
- Cost: FREE
Like its other online-based competitors, Trussle is more suited for those happy searching for deals online and without meeting a broker face-to-face.
Trussle's services are free for you to use as they charge lenders commission instead. Similar to other brokers, Trussle doesn't work with direct-only providers, so you'll still need to conduct your own search to ensure the deals it finds are best for you. If you do find a direct-only deal that's better for you, Trussle will see if they can match it for you.
If you need help, then Trussle's mortgage advisers are available by live chat, email and phone. Trussle has a five-star rating on reviews site Trustpilot.
If you've used Trussle, please let us know about your experiences.
- How do I speak to it? Face-to-face, coronavirus-permitting
- What lenders will it check? It depends on the one you find
- Cost: Varies massively, always check
Give them a call, and ask the three questions in the picking a broker section to ensure they fit your bill. Make sure each broker you look at can advise from the entire mortgage market, and is fees-free (if that's what you're looking for).
For those wanting a more informal route, this website's forum includes a large Mortgage Board where some helpful mortgage brokers voluntarily answer questions – it's an easy, non-committal starting option.
Many are fee-free mortgage brokers, so if they do help you, there's no reason not to ask them to sort your mortgage for you (always ask them the three questions first, though).
As always, the golden rule is to seek more than one opinion before deciding.
If you've had credit problems, whether mild or severe (see the Credit Scores guide), and are trying to sort a mortgage, be very wary of going to the 'specialist poor credit' brokers who advertise everywhere.
These often charge very high fees as customers tend to think that's all they can get. There's absolutely no need to go to a specialist though; most normal brokers (including the ones listed above) also deal with what's called the 'sub-prime' market too, and at the same fee rates that they normally charge.
Most brokers only charge upon completion of the mortgage so there's nothing to stop you getting a second, or even a third, opinion. Two heads are often better than one, so why not try a few brokers and see if any beat the others?
Do check that the brokers don't submit an Agreement in Principle without your permission as this can involve a hard credit search on your file. Too many of these may actually hurt your credit score, meaning you get a worse deal (see the Credit Scores guide).
The other benefit of this is that different brokers often have exclusive deals from lenders (though there may be a small fee for 'booking' these). The big national brokers have their own deals and local brokers may offer exclusives via 'broker networks' which negotiate deals for them. Always weigh up the benefit of the exclusive deal against any fees.
It's worth asking what commission your broker's getting for arranging the mortgage. This should be stated on the last page of the mortgage illustration too – it's likely to be between 0.35% and 0.5% of the mortgage value. So on a £100,000 mortgage, the commission or 'proc' fee they get will be between £350 and £500.
It's worth asking if they're prepared to rebate any of their commission as cashback to you when the mortgage completes, especially if you're paying a fee for their services as well.
You're more likely to be able to strike a deal on larger mortgages (where your fee plus their commission is more than £1,000), but the broker's well within their rights to say no, whatever the final income they get from arranging your mortgage.
Step 3: Then check deals that most brokers miss
If you used our Mortgage Best Buys to benchmark a rate before you went to a broker, and it couldn't beat your rate, then you've probably already done this.
And if your broker says it tells you about all deals on the market (not just the ones they can transact for you), this part should already have been done. It may be worth double-checking, but it's likely you've already found the best deal for you.
If you used a standard broker, it may still miss some deals as sadly, some lenders have retreated from the broker market to cut costs. Some simply don't allow brokers to access any of their deals; others reserve some deals for direct sales only.
For belt and braces, compare a broker's best result to the three types of mortgages it may not have included:
1. Lenders that don't operate through brokers
Yorkshire Building Society also doesn't work with brokers, though it does deal with them through their own broker brands, Accord and Platform. Brokers who say they search the whole market should include them in a comparison, but they don't have to offer to transact for you.
2. Lenders that don't offer all their deals through brokers
You'll really need to do some legwork for these. A few lenders put some deals through brokers and offer some only direct. Just to show there's nothing like keeping things simple!
In some cases direct deals can be much more competitive (but not always). Usefully, MSE's Mortgage Best Buys tool finds the best deals for you, and tells you if they're available through brokers or only direct.
3. Exclusive deals from other brokers
In the final category are the deals which are available exclusively through certain broker networks, as they sometimes negotiate their own deals with lenders. Unfortunately, we can't cover all of these in our best buys tool, but they're not a significant proportion of the market. For full belt and braces, you could try a few different brokers.
Step 4: Check mortgage paperwork
You could start a library out of the amount of paperwork you get sent when you take out a mortgage or remortgage. The main documents you need to be aware of are:
Key Facts Illustration
The Key Facts Illustration does what it says on the tin. It gives you the Key Facts about the mortgage product, not all of them, but all the main ones. You should be given one of these before you make an application and you should check through carefully.
Key Facts illustration checklist:
- Does it have the Key Facts logo on it? (shown above)
- Does it have the correct date on it?
- Does it have your name on it?
- Does it state who has created it? This will be your broker's details, or the lender if you've gone direct.
- Does it say if you've been recommended the product?
If all of the information's in there, file the illustration and keep it. If some of this information's missing, ask the lender or broker for a new one. In the event you ever have a disagreement with your lender, this document is a crucial piece of evidence that proves what you were recommended, by who and when. Your lender won't keep a copy forever, so keep it somewhere safe as it could be years before you need it again.
Once you've successfully applied for a mortgage, you'll be sent a mortgage offer by the lender. This gives ALL the facts about the mortgage and the conditions on the loan that you are agreeing to.
It's a bit more reading, but it's massively important you read through it and check every detail is 100% accurate. Be sure to look for:
- Mis-spelled names or incorrect loan figures. This could stop the mortgage at the very last minute, resulting in delays, additional expense, jeopardising the purchase and even more scarily, losing the mortgage offer completely.
- Anything unexpected, particularly info that contradicts your Key Facts illustration. Pay particular close attention to fees, early repayment charges and the conditions you need to meet to complete (as it's your solicitor's job to check you've met these before the money can be drawn down).
Your broker should also check the mortgage offer, but don't rely on that. If you were to disagree on a point later down the line, it could be very difficult to win the argument if you've signed the document accepting the conditions.
Step 5: Watch out for the hard sell
Some lenders and brokers try to make more money elsewhere in the mortgage process. So be prepared for the hard sell on these products.
Mortgage payment protection insurance (MPPI)
Sometimes called accident, sickness and unemployment insurance (ASU), MPPI is supposed to cover your payments if you have an accident, become ill, or you're made redundant.
You can get limited help from the Government in these circumstances but, at best, it will only cover your interest. So it's sensible to consider, before you take out a mortgage, how you would manage to meet your repayments if these events happened.
MPPI isn't a bad policy but it can be quite pricey and has been mis-sold in the past to people who couldn't actually claim on it. This can happen because the insurer doesn't carry out any checks when you first apply, only when you go to make a claim.
Since the onset of coronavirus, many providers have actually withdrawn the unemployment part of MPPI. This means that anyone taking out a new policy will struggle to be covered in the event of redundancy. Existing customers (who took out a policy pre-crisis) won't be affected by this.
What to ask before taking out MPPI
If you do decide to take out an MPPI policy, check carefully:
- That it will pay out if you claim
- When it will pay (you may have to wait several weeks before the policy kicks in)
- How much it'll pay and for how long (it usually only covers your repayments for 12 months)
Ensure you understand all the terms and conditions before signing on the dotted line.
Buying MPPI from your mortgage broker. Be careful when buying from your mortgage broker here. It may not be able to get you the best-priced policy. It's common for a broker to offer whole of market mortgage advice, but then be tied to a single, or small, panel of insurers.
There's no harm in getting a quote from your broker for MPPI, but make sure that you compare with other policies to see if it's a good deal.
Bundled buildings / contents insurance
All lenders will insist you take out buildings insurance, and normally it's a condition of them giving you the mortgage in the first place. But be very suspicious of deals which insist you buy your buildings insurance through your lender. While the amount quoted may seem reasonable in the first year, you'll then be trapped into accepting whatever premium increases they foist on you in subsequent years, for as long as the mortgage lasts.
Some lenders might add on an admin fee of around £25 if you decline to take their insurance, but this can normally be recouped from the insurance provider you end up going with. If you go elsewhere for your home cover, some seriously cheap deals are possible. By using cashback sites, some people have even been PAID to take out insurance. See our Home Insurance guide.
Life cover from your mortgage seller
Don't assume just because someone sold you one financial product, they'll automatically get you a good deal on extra bits such as life cover or other insurance.
Buying your first home is probably the first time you've thought about life insurance, but don't rush in and grab the first one offered to you. In some cases you can save 50% on the life cover sold by your lender or broker.
Ready to get a mortgage? We've lots more guides, tools & tips to help...
- Mortgage Best Buys. Find your top mortgage deals.
- First-Time Buyers' Guide. Free PDF helps you take your first step on to the property ladder.
- Remortgage Guide. Our free PDF has tips on when remortgaging's right, plus how to grab top deals.
We've also got some handy mortgage calculators...
- Compare fixed-rate mortgages. This compares two fixed-rate deals, breaking down the cost per month.
- Basic mortgage calculator. Shows the cost per month and the total cost over the life of a mortgage, incl fees & interest.
- Offset mortgage vs savings. Use this calculator to work out if an offset mortgage works out better for you.
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