What type of mortgage to choose?

Pick from a fixed, tracker or something more flexible

Getting a mortgage is one of the biggest financial commitments you're ever likely to make. While the prospect can be exciting, navigating the market can be overwhelming – what with 1,000s of deals available and interest rates being high – so it's crucial to understand which mortgage will suit you. This guide outlines the different types of mortgages available and how they differ.

Repayment vs interest-only mortgages

In the main, there are two types of mortgage repayment: capital repayment and interest-only. A third – much rarer – type, known as 'part and part' (which is a mix of the two) also exists.

Here's how repayment and interest-only mortgages work:

How a capital repayment mortgage works

With a capital repayment mortgage, your monthly repayments are calculated so you'll have repaid all the debt and the interest over the term you agree (for example, 25 years). It means your monthly payments cover the interest as well as chip away at the actual debt – so at the end you owe nothing.

This has a strange effect. In the early years, your outstanding debt is larger so most of your monthly repayments go towards paying the interest. Gradually, as you reduce what you owe, the balance shifts and most of your repayments go towards paying off the debt.

For example, on a £150,000, 25-year mortgage at 5%, you'll pay £877 a month. After 10 years you'll have made £105,240 in payments, but only reduced what you owe by £39,000. Yet after a further 10 years, having paid another £105,240 you've reduced the debt by a further £65,000. This is because less interest is accruing each year.

Many people, once they realise this, then worry that if they ever remortgage to another deal, they'll lose all the work they've put into decreasing what they owe. This isn't true. Provided you keep the same debt and the same number of years left until it ends (in other words, you have 14 years left to repay and you still intend to repay it in 14 years) it stays the same.

To see how your repayments would work in practice, check out our Ultimate mortgage calculator.

How an interest-only mortgage works

Interest-only mortgages used to be really popular among first-time buyers, but for many years now it's been very difficult to get your hands on one. You'll only be offered one where there's a credible plan to repay the capital, so interest-only mortgages are rare. Here's how they work:

  • With an interest-only mortgage you just pay the interest during the term. Your monthly payment doesn't chip away at your actual debt (the amount you borrowed) – it just covers the cost of borrowing that money. So for example, when the term (for example, 25 years) is up on a £150,000 mortgage, you would still owe £150,000.

  • You have to pay back the amount you borrowed in one lump sum at the end of the mortgage term. So if you get an interest-only mortgage, you NEED to have a separate plan to pay off your debt – by building up a lump sum elsewhere.

If you're considering an interest-only mortgage, the lender will want to see evidence of a convincing method you've set up (for example, savings) to build up enough cash to pay off the actual cost of the property.

Choosing repayment means you'll clear the debt

Putting the fact that it's very difficult getting an interest-only mortgage aside, unless you have a compelling reason, repayment is the way forward. That's because with a repayment mortgage:

  • Although you pay more each month, it's the only option which guarantees you owe nothing at the end of the mortgage term. That's as you're actually paying off some of your debt every month. 

  • As the outstanding capital gradually reduces, you pay less interest over the term. Whereas with an interest-only mortgage, the amount of interest you pay never changes.

  • When you come to remortgage, you'll have paid off more of the debt. This means you'll be able to get a mortgage with a lower LTV and hopefully a lower interest rate.

Do you want a fixed or variable mortgage?

This is the really BIG choice, and it's never easy. There are many different types of deal but all fall roughly into two camps. They're either fixed or variable.

Fixed-rate mortgages explained

In return for signing up for a fixed rate, essentially the lender agrees to give you a short-term special rate. Regardless of what happens to interest rates, with a fixed mortgage your repayments will stay the same for the length of the deal.

Lenders call this the incentive period – and all fixed deals will have one, whether it's two, three, five, 10 years or longer. Sometimes it's even possible to find fixed-rate deals that last for the life of your mortgage.

Like all mortgage deals, fixed rates have pros and cons:

Certainty – your payments won't go up for the duration of the fix, no matter how high rates go.

As you'll know exactly what you'll pay, you can budget around it.

If interest rates fall, you won't see your payments drop.

If you want to get out early, you'll usually pay high penalties.

If a fixed mortgage sounds good, think carefully about how long you want to fix for (more on this later). Ideally, you don't want to leave the deal before the initial period ends, as there's usually an early repayment charge, which can add significantly to your costs.

Quick question

  • What happens when my incentive period comes to an end?

    Don't panic, you're not expected to repay your mortgage in full. If you choose a two-year fixed rate, for example, your rate is fixed for two years and at the end you'll go on to the lender's standard variable rate (SVR).

    The mortgage illustration you'll be given by the lender or broker will tell you what today's SVR is. But be aware, this can be changed by the lender at a whim, so there's no guarantee what it'll be when you reach the end of your fixed deal.

    If the SVR is higher (which it normally is, and quite substantially) than rates offered to new customers, most people will remortgage (replace the mortgage with a new one) on to a more attractive rate with a new lender.

Variable rate mortgages explained

A variable rate can, and usually will, move up and down. The main cause of this (although not the only cause), are changes to the UK economy.

In times of growth and inflation, interest rates tend to go up to discourage spending. This is to make saving more attractive and borrowing costlier – meaning people are less likely to borrow to spend. In downturns, interest rates are often cut to encourage spending.

To complicate things, variable rate deals fall into three categories: trackers, standard variable rates (SVRs) and discounts. Here's how they work:

1. Tracker mortgages

Here the rate 'tracks' a fixed economic indicator – usually the Bank of England's base rate. This doesn't mean it's the same as the base rate, just that it moves in line with it.

Tracker mortgages usually track above the base rate. For example, a tracker mortgage might track at the base rate plus a 0.5 percentage point – so if the base rate is 5.25%, the tracker rate will be 5.75%.

Normally tracker mortgages are popular in times of falling interest rates (as many benefit from the base rate being cut), but less so when interest rates are going up (as many lose out from the base rate increasing).

Here are the pros and cons of a tracker:

It's transparent – only economic change can move your rate, and if interest rates are cut, your rate will drop.

Uncertainty – if rates rise, so will yours.

You're locked into a fixed relationship, so if you're paying a rate several percentage points above the base rate and the base rate is hiked, it could mean huge future costs.

Quick questions

  • How long can I track for?

    Trackers range in length, with the most common being two years, though there are a lot of five-year trackers too. Occasionally some lenders offer lifetime trackers.

    Like most incentive periods, there's usually a fee to pay if you leave early. Lifetime trackers often don't have any early repayment charge, or only have one for an initial period. It varies, so check carefully.

  • Do trackers always follow the Bank of England (BoE) base rate?

    Some trackers don't follow the BoE base rate. Instead, they track the Libor rate (London InterBank Offered Rate), which is the rate at which lenders loan money to one another. Libor is more commonly used by 'sub-prime mortgages' and buy-to-let mortgages than standard residential ones, but watch for it.

    Watch out for lenders who call their products 'trackers' but have their mortgage deals following a rate the lender controls. 

  • Will my tracker only ever move when the rate it follows moves?

    A true tracker should only move when the economic indicator it follows moves. But watch out for lenders describing mortgage rates as trackers and then including small print that lets them up rates for other reasons.

    Get your lender and broker to confirm there aren't any conditions like this and check the mortgage offer document carefully yourself before you sign on the dotted line. 

2. Standard variable mortgages (SVRs)

Each lender has an SVR which they can move when they like. In reality, this tends roughly to follow the Bank of England's base rate movements. SVRs can be anything from two to five or more percentage points above the base rate, and they can vary massively between lenders.

Critically, they're the rate that most borrowers end up on after the end of an incentive period such as a two-year fix or two-year discounted variable rate.

They're often expensive, with average rates way above those of cheap fixes – right now SVRs tend to be in the region of 7.5% to 8.5%. Plus, they're risky as you don't know when the lender will move its rates – and it can move rates for commercial and economic reasons:

If interest rates are cut, your rate will likely drop too (although this is not guaranteed).

There is usually no early repayment charge, meaning the mortgage can be paid back in full at any point without penalty.

If interest rates rise, your SVR will almost certainly rise too.

While you can be on a cheap SVR, the likelihood is that, in this market, a cheap fix or variable rate will be significantly cheaper.

If you're on a costly SVR, but you've only a small amount left to pay, it may not be worth changing lender. This is because, with switching fees so high, you are less likely to make a saving. For example, if you've only £25,000 left to pay on your mortgage and fees to switch are £2,000, you'll be spending almost 10% of what you owe to change.

SVR mortgages are rarely available to new customers, and even if they are, they're almost certainly not as competitive as other incentive rates.

3. Discount rate mortgages

These deals usually offer a discount off a lender's standard variable rate (SVR). Most of the discounts on offer tend to last for a relatively short period – typically two or three years, but there are lenders offering longer, even lifetime options.

Yet be careful when you read the marketing materials. How are they described? It can be confusing. Take, for example, 'a 2% discount'. Is this 2% off its SVR of 7.5%, in other words, 5.5%? Or does this mean the rate you pay is 2%? Check carefully what you'll pay...

If interest rates are cut, your rate will probably drop too.

Uncertainty – there's no guarantee your lender will move its SVR down if the Bank of England base rate goes down. So you might not get the full benefit of all rate changes.

You're at the mercy of lenders hiking SVRs at their will, which directly affects your rate.

Remember that because lenders' SVRs can vary, it's not the size of the discount that counts, but the underlying rate you pay.

How do I choose between a fixed or variable rate mortgage?

This can be tricky, so here's Martin's view...

MoneySavingExpert.com founder Martin Lewis

A fixed rate is an insurance policy against hikes and therefore gives peace of mind. That has to be factored into the equation. Though how much that peace of mind costs you is important too.

Yet a shock horror thought from the Money Saving Expert. Here, choosing a rate isn't purely about which is the cheapest.

Deciding whether to fix is a question of weighing up how important certainty that your repayments will stay the same is for you. I tend to think of this as a "how close to the edge are you?" question.

Someone who can only just afford their mortgage repayments should not be gambling with interest rates. They'll benefit much more from a fixed rate as it means they'll never be pushed over the brink by a rate increase during the term of the fix.

Those with lots of spare cash over and above the mortgage may choose to head for a discount or tracker, and take the gamble that it'll work out cheaper in the long run.

Don't look back in anger

I'm sure Oasis were writing about mortgages when they penned that famous line. The truth is, the only way to truly know which mortgage deal is best is with an accurate crystal ball, and they cost way more than a house.

So if you do decide to go for a fixed rate on the basis of surety and later with hindsight realise a discount rate would've been cheaper, this doesn't mean it was the wrong decision. If you needed surety, remember, you got it.

I think it's time for an analogy

If I asked you to call heads or tails on a coin toss and said I'll give you £100 if you win, but you only need to pay me £1 if you lose, then provided you could afford to lose £1, you'd be a fool not to do it.

While the bet itself doesn't increase your chances of winning, the reward for winning is much better than the cost of losing. So if when we actually tossed the coin you lost, that doesn't mean the bet was a bad one. Even though the outcome wasn't what you wanted, you made the best decision based on the knowledge you had at the time.

The same is true with fixing your mortgage.

- Martin Lewis MSE founder and chair

Quick questions

  • What's the difference between a tracker and a discount mortgage?

    A tracker follows the Bank of England base rate which is an independent economic indicator. This means your lender should only move your rate by the same amount and when the indicator moves. (Check the small print to make sure your lender hasn't left itself a loophole here).

    A discount is priced at a certain percentage below the lender's standard variable rate (SVR). The percentage discount cannot change but the SVR, can move willy-nilly based on the lender's own competitive reasons. The most important thing to remember is...

    Lenders can do whatever they want with their SVRs. You have no guarantee on what'll happen with it.
  • Why do some variable mortgages have a 'collar'?

    Between July 2008 to March 2010, the Bank of England base rate dropped from 5.75% to 0.5%. Tracker products were usually priced below the base rate (for example, base rate minus 0.2%) so some borrowers did extremely well. But the lenders didn't do quite so well out of it, so some tried to limit their losses by applying a mortgage collar (minimum rate).

    A collar stops the rate from falling below a minimum percentage rate – essentially, it's the opposite of a cap. Some lenders were sneaky and introduced this even though it wasn't in the paperwork, though this isn't allowed.

    If you opt for a variable mortgage, make sure you check if there's a collar. Ask your lender (or broker) outright AND check the key facts illustration and mortgage offer carefully.

  • How do I know if I'm getting the best deal?

    As rates change over time, simply comparing the fixed and variable rates at the point you take your mortgage is a relatively blunt tool. To work out which is truly a better deal, look at how much interest rates would need to change before one deal beats the other. This is where a broker can really help you see the wood for the trees.

Should you get a mortgage deal which is two, five, 10 years or longer?

Incentive periods generally range from two up to 10 years (it's even possible to get deals for life sometimes). But picking the wrong length can be costly. Yet many don't think this through fully. This can come back to bite you later, meaning you spend more than you need to.

There are many factors to consider before you choose, the key one being...

"How long do you need the certainty for?"

This is most appropriate with a fixed-rate mortgage, as your monthly payments are fixed for the term. Generally speaking, the longer you fix for, the more it will tend to cost. But if you need the certainty of knowing what your payments will be, a fixed mortgage will do this for you.

Therefore the less spare cash you have to meet potential interest rate rises and the more you value budgeting certainty, the more you might hedge towards fixing, and fixing for longer.

Here are some other things to consider when deciding what length of deal to go for:

1. Check a two-year deal is actually a two-year deal

Many products will have a name that states the initial rate will last a certain number of years, but will actually have a specified end date.

Depending on how long it takes to complete the mortgage (to draw down the money), you could end up with a product that could last months less (or more) than you anticipated. So check the detail carefully.

Don't just rely on the name of the mortgage product on the front page of the illustration. Check the section that details the rate, if it has an end date, it'll look something like this:

5.50% fixed, ending 31/03/2026

2. Mortgage fees can add up if you constantly switch deals

Two-year incentive periods are popular because they're often (though not always, including right now) the lowest rates. But their fees tend to be just as high as longer deals. So think about it – over 10 years, if you have five separate two-year deals, you could be paying £7,500 in arrangement fees (£1,500 a deal).

But if you can get two five-year deals, then you'd only need to pay £3,000, potentially saving £4,500.

Fees can be even more expensive if you can't pay them upfront. You'd have to add them to your mortgage debt and pay interest on them for many years. Read our Mortgage fees guide for a full rundown of what you could have to pay.

3. Longer-term fixes are very competitive right now...

Up until late in 2022, we'd got used to fixed mortgage rates following a loose pattern: the longer the fixed deal, the higher the rate. This was because the lender was guaranteeing your rate while taking on the risk that rates will rise in the future. This was something they were happy to do while the UK base rate, and long-term predictions of interest rates, remained low.

However, market uncertainty in 2022 changed this dynamic. The cost of fixed-rate mortgages went up, with many lenders offering longer-term fixes at lower rates than shorter-term fixes. And this is still the case today, reflecting that lenders expect the cost of borrowing to decrease over the long term.

Currently, some rates on the cheapest five and 10-year fixed mortgages are on a par with, or lower than, the equivalent two-year fixes.

4. But only fix for a long time if you plan to stay in your property

While rates on many 10-year fixes may be competitive right now, fixing for a decade isn't something to be done lightly – and you should never just decide on a mortgage based on the rate alone. See our Should I get a 10-year fixed mortgage? guide for all the things that need considering.

One risk of picking a cheap 10-year fix (or even five-year fix) is where there's a good chance you'll want to move home before the fix finishes, as you might end up having to pay an early repayment charge (ERC) to your lender. For example, you'll need to pay an ERC in order to move property if your lender won't allow you to port your current fix to your new home (we've a whole guide on How porting a mortgage works).

So don't be swayed by a cheap long-term fix for your flat if you and your partner are planning on starting a family and will likely need a bigger property in the near future. Beware that early repayment charges can be huge, as much as 5% of the loan (sometimes the equivalent to £1,000s), and will differ widely between products and lenders.

The charge will apply if you:

  • Pay off the mortgage in full. For example, if you inherit a pile of money and just want to clear the mortgage off; you remortgage, meaning you get a replacement mortgage with another lender; you want to move home but can't port your mortgage, meaning you need to repay it and take out a new one; or

  • Pay the lender back more than you're allowed to. Any payment over and above your normal, agreed monthly payment is called an overpayment. Most lenders allow you to overpay a certain amount (usually 10% of the outstanding debt – though check what your deal allows), but breach this and it could cost you.

    If you have plans to pay off a lump sum that exceeds the overpayment limit then you'll need to weigh up the early repayment costs of doing that if you're tied in. It may be better to wait to pay the lump sum once the incentive period is over.

5. The longer your mortgage term, the more you'll pay

As well as choosing the length of your introductory deal, you also need to choose how long the mortgage will run for. It's an important factor, and it's often overlooked.

Many people plump for 25 years, but it doesn't have to be that length of time. Alternatively, you can have it for 30, 35 or even 40 years – in February 2023 around 38% of first-time buyers opted for a mortgage term between 30 and 35 years.

There are two key elements to remember when picking your mortgage term. The shorter your mortgage term, the higher your monthly repayments will be. Yet the trade-off is your mortgage will cost you less overall.

Here are a couple of other factors to take into account when you choose:

  • How old will you be when the term ends? Some lenders won't allow you to take it into your retirement period, while others will. Age is an important consideration, as you have to question whether you could you keep up with the repayments.

  • The longer it is, the more you pay. Lengthening the term to, say, 35 years, means your monthly repayments will be smaller, but what you pay overall in interest will be greater. Shortening the term is a bit like overpaying – it makes the mortgage far cheaper but it's only sensible if you've got the cash. If the mortgage allows you to overpay, better to keep the mortgage long to give yourself flexibility, then make overpayments.

Try using our Mortgage best buys to see how changing the length of your mortgage term will affect your payments.

Quick questions

  • Am I free to move after the incentive period ends?

    Once your fixed or discount deal ends, in most cases you are free, and you should consider switching the deal. We say this because once your deal ends, you'll be shifted on to the standard variable rate, which is usually uncompetitive.

    Some lenders' SVRs are decent, so it's not always worth switching, particularly if your mortgage debt is low (in this case it might not be worth switching to a better interest rate if you're only going to be hit with high fees to take out the new mortgage).

    Still, good practice is to start looking a few months before your special offer ends to see if you can get a cheaper remortgage deal (remortgaging just means switching mortgage) as for every 1% of interest you cut per £100,000 of mortgage, that could be £80+ month saved. Full help in our Remortgage guide.

  • What's an overhang?

    One warning is that some products can have an 'overhang', otherwise known as an 'extended tie-in' or 'extended early repayment charge'. These last for a period after the special offer period, in other words, when you're on the higher SVR. Cheeky, but we've seen it happen.

    They were used by lenders in the past so they could offer really attractive low initial rates, knowing they would recoup some of the money later. Uninformed borrowers got a nasty shock when they moved on to the SVR and found they'd still have to pay a sizeable charge to remortgage. They are few and far between, but do check, and try to avoid them.

    You might be OK with an overhang if it gets your costs down low at the start, when you're first buying. But you need to be sure it's good value overall and that you can definitely afford it when the rate goes up.

    Remember, you'd be going on to the SVR, which the lender can move at any time. That means it could be higher than illustrated, so you need to be sure you could cope. You might enjoy the initial low rate but will you really be happy when the rate bumps up?

  • Can I take the mortgage with me if I need to move house within the term?

    If you think you might move during the incentive period of the mortgage, you need to look for a mortgage deal that allows 'porting'. This just means that you can move the mortgage to another property without incurring an early repayment charge.

    A deal that allows porting can be attractive if you want a long-term, low-rate incentive period, but aren't 100% sure you'll want to stick with the property for the length of the deal.

    Not all mortgages are portable and allow you to move them to a different property. Even if your deal is portable, it doesn't guarantee the lender will let you move it. It can refuse your application to port for many reasons – for example, if it doesn't like your property, you can't prove your income, your income's changed or you're in arrears.

Do you want your mortgage to be flexible?

Once you've got an idea of the key requirements for your mortgage, the next question is: do you want a mortgage that's more flexible?

This means getting functions that allow you to over- or underpay, and borrow money back. Sometimes flexible features are included in the cheapest mortgages already, which is an added bonus.

Other times, you might need to take a higher-rate product to get the feature you want. You'll need to weigh up what you definitely need, what depends on cost and what doesn't matter as you'll probably not use it.

Our Mortgage best buys tool will show you the top mortgages that fit your criteria, and will tell you if your chosen mortgage has any flexible features. Here are some flexible features that mortgages can include:

1. Allowing overpayments

Far more important than the others, is the most popular flexible feature – the ability to overpay. This just means paying more than your agreed monthly repayment – whether each month or just shoving a lump sum at your mortgage from time to time.

Overpaying can result in clearing the debt substantially quicker, so you pay less interest overall. The impact of this can be huge – see how much overpaying could save you.

If you had a £150,000 mortgage over 25 years at 5% interest, your monthly repayments would be £880. Over the term, you'd pay £113,000 in interest. If you overpaid by £100 a month, you'd repay the mortgage four years and seven months quicker, saving £23,350 in interest.

Luckily, most mortgages allow you to make some form of overpayment. So you don't always need something special (as special usually costs more).

However, they usually restrict the amount of money you can overpay – typically 10% of the outstanding mortgage/year, or a fixed max amount each month (do more and there are harsh penalties). Less commonly, they might restrict when and/or how often you can overpay.

So you need to work out how much you're likely to want to overpay by, and when you're likely to want to overpay.

Timing your overpayment

Mortgage companies calculate how much interest you owe on the debt at different times. The vast majority do it daily, a few quarterly or yearly. You need to know how yours works so you can time your extra payments.

  • With daily interest the timing doesn't especially matter. You benefit the next day, so sooner is always better but not crucial.

  • With annual interest the timing is crucial. This also applies if the interest is monthly or quarterly. This is because mortgage overpayments will only count to reduce the interest you pay AFTER the calculation is made. Put it in at the wrong time and you'll miss out.

    Say the amount you'll be paying in interest is worked out on December 31, then you need to make sure you pay the extra in before Christmas. Leave it until January and you lose the benefit of overpaying. You'll still be charged interest as if you hadn't made the overpayment until next 31 December.

Most mortgages these days are daily interest, but be sure to check.

Does the mortgage have a 'borrow back' facility?

If you're overpaying, a few lenders will allow you to get the overpayments back if needed – though they don't always shout about it, making it a hidden bonus.

If your lender allows you to do so, then you can effectively use your mortgage as a high-interest savings account. If you leave money in it temporarily, the net effect is the same as earning interest tax-free at the mortgage rate – very few savings accounts will beat that right now.

2. Payment holidays?

Here, the lender will allow you to simply stop paying it when you want. But be careful. Lenders don't let you play hooky from the goodness of their hearts.

Some lenders insist you've overpaid first (so it's the same effect as the borrow-back). If they don't, then you'll pay for it as the interest continues to be added to your loan and you're not clearing anything.

Typically, borrowers taking a 'holiday' arrange to miss one or two payments, and their monthly payments are recalculated to spread the cost of those missed payments the rest of the life of your loan – in other words, your repayments will go up.

In addition, there could also be an extra penalty or administration charge on top.

  • Always arrange a payment holiday with your lender first. You can't just decide by yourself to take a payment holiday because it's a feature of your mortgage, you'll also need to agree with it with your lender. If you don't, it'll hit your credit file and look like you've missed payments willy-nilly. This will seriously damage your credit score and your remortgage chances in the future.

3. Offset interest rates and current account mortgages

So far, the focus has been on mortgages that are variations on a simple theme. You borrow a set amount of money, you pay back a certain amount every month, and your debt is the amount you borrowed minus the repayments you've made. So far, so straightforward.

However, for ultimate flexibility, there are mortgages specifically designed to allow you to use them as a place to put your savings. They still come in variable or fixed deals as described above, but with a twist...

Offset mortgages

An offset mortgage keeps your mortgage debt and savings in separate pots with the same bank or building society. But the big difference is your cash savings are used to reduce – or 'offset' – the amount of mortgage interest you're charged. Here's an example:

  • If you've a mortgage of £150,000 and savings of £15,000, then you only pay interest on the difference of £135,000.

  • Your rate of interest stays the same every month. But your savings pot acts as an overpayment, wiping out part of the loan that interest is being charged on every month. This will help you clear the mortgage early.

  • As you're repaying more quickly, it'll cost you less overall. The most important point is the money can be withdrawn whenever you want with no problem (but obviously then it no longer offsets your mortgage debt).

Offsets are a good way for your family to help you cope with your mortgage, if they have savings and you don't, but they don't want to necessarily part with their cash.

Rather than giving you money to reduce your mortgage, they can deposit their savings in an account with your lender and link them to your mortgage. This reduces the capital you owe without losing access to them. All they lose is the interest which, let's face it, isn't much anyway these days.

Use our calculator to compare an offset mortgage to a standard mortgage with separate savings account.

  • Is offsetting worth it?

    Many people get very excited by the idea of offset, but hold your horses. The problem is that offsets are usually at a higher rate than standard mortgages.

    Think about it. If you've a £200,000 mortgage, while getting a better rate on £20,000 of savings is nice – you don't want to pay a worse rate on the remaining £180,000 debt. So in the main, unless the offset is really cheap (in other words, it's not much more than a non-offset mortgage), only those who'll be offsetting a substantial amount of savings should bother.

    Even then, you could just get a smaller normal mortgage and borrow less or overpay.

Current account mortgages

This type of mortgage is very rare these days. Here, as it says on the tin, your mortgage is combined with your current account, so you've one balance. Here's an example:

  • If you have £4,000 in your current account and a mortgage of £150,000, then you're effectively £146,000 overdrawn. The debt is smallest just after your salary is paid in, and it then creeps up throughout the month as you spend your salary.

  • You make a standard payment every month which is designed to clear your mortgage over the term you've chosen. The extra money floating around in your account is like an overpayment, which should mean you pay the loan off much more quickly.

  • Any extra cash savings can be added to reduce the balance further. Many people liked the idea but didn't like constantly seeing a debt figure in their bank account.

The additional benefit of the current account element is often overstressed. Unless you have huge fluctuations in salaries and big bonuses, it's a tiny saving compared to an offset – and the costs of these mortgages are often much more.

How do joint mortgages work?

When you take out a joint mortgage, the lender classes you both as 'jointly and severally liable' for the debt. This means the lender can pursue you both, or either of you separately, for the full debt.

It's possible to take out the mortgage in just one name, but the named person is responsible for the mortgage and the other person's income won't be taken into account, so it's likely you won't be able to borrow as much as two of you could.

A lender may ask you about anyone else living in the property aged 17 or over, and may want to know why they're not on the mortgage. They're not going to be too fussed about your 19-year-old student son, but they will want to know why you have a partner living there that's not being named on the mortgage.

  • What's joint ownership?

    The most common form of ownership between couples is 'joint tenancy'. It means you both own the property. If you were to split up and can't decide how to divide up its value, the courts will decide for you. If one of you were to die, the property would revert in full to the survivor.

    The other way is to be 'tenants in common'. Under this, each person owns a specified proportion of the property, say 50/50. Then if you break up or one of you dies, it's clear who owns what. This can also be used if one person's putting down a significantly larger deposit than the other.

    Remember though, either type of ownership does not stop you being jointly and severally liable for the mortgage debt.

  • What if I want to buy with a friend?

    Some friends or siblings club together to buy a property – normally lenders allow up to four people to get a joint mortgage. Pooled salaries will increase your buying power, but remember you are jointly and severally liable for the mortgage.

    You need to consider what would happen if one of you wanted to sell your share or lost your job. The lender won't care if three out of four of you paid your share. It'll want its money and will pursue all of you for the debt. In reality, it's likely to put more effort into chasing the person who is still working than the person who isn't.

    Buying with other people isn't something to be taken on lightly. Once you take on a mortgage together you're financially linked – your friend's credit rating will now affect yours and even a partial missed payment will go on all your credit files. Don't do this without sorting a legal contract between you covering all the 'what if' possibilities and what your rights are.

Guarantor mortgages – are they worth it?

If a mortgage lender isn't willing to lend you the amount of money you need (you don't earn enough, or it thinks you'll be stretching your affordability too far), a guarantor mortgage could get you the loan amount you needed.

A guarantor is somebody who promises to make your mortgage payments (such as a parent) if you fail to do so. They don't own the property so are not on the title deeds, but they have signed a legal contract with your mortgage lender.

If you don't make your payments, the lender is free to pursue the guarantor as well, even forcing them to sell their own home to make your repayments. This is a huge commitment, so check your guarantor fully understands what they're signing up to.

The lender also wants your guarantor to seek independent legal advice before signing (to make sure they can't worm out of the contract later by saying they didn't understand).

  • Is the guarantor committed for the full mortgage term?

    Your guarantor will be committed until the lender is willing to release them, or, the guarantee may be for an agreed period of time, for example, five years, at which point the mortgage debt will have reduced to a level the lender is comfortable with.

    Some guarantor mortgages require the guarantor to place a sum of money in an account that cannot be accessed for a period of time. This gives the lender more confidence that if you don't pay, there'll be an account with money in it waiting.

  • Can a broker sort a guarantor mortgage for me?

    It's definitely worth speaking to a broker if you need to go down this route – not only do you need to be creditworthy enough to get a loan from the lender, but your guarantor will also be assessed to make sure they could make your repayments on top of their own commitments.

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