how to remortgage

Getting ready to remortgage

Sort your credit score, minimise costs & find top deals

Before you start looking at rates, it's important that you polish your credit report and learn how else to bolster your mortgage credentials. Remortgaging requires effort on your part – even more so since coronavirus – but being proactive could generate a lot of savings in the long run. Here are our 13 getting-ready-to-remortgage tips.

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  1. Start the remortgage process 3-6 months before your current deal ends – delays are rife right now so act in time to avoid moving to the expensive standard variable rate

    The house buying boom – and whilst it was running, the stamp duty holiday – has meant that brokers, lenders, and conveyancing solicitors are in massive demand. This means things are taking longer, sometimes three to six months right now.

    Those on fixed or discount deals ending this year, beware. When they end you're usually bumped to lenders' far more expensive standard variable rates (SVR). To avoid that, you'll need to start earlier than normal, three to six months before it ends, particularly if you're self-employed or have complicated circumstances.

    Most lenders allow you to secure a rate with them, but not actually start repaying the mortgage until three (and sometimes up to six) months later. So in October, even if your deal expires in January 2022, you could lock in October's rate and continue to the end of your term with your current mortgage provider.

    The risk is though, if better deals emerge in the meantime, it could have been beneficial to have waited rather than lock-in a rate in advance. If that happens, and you decide to ditch the first new deal you've got for another one, you'll almost certainly pay a second lot of fees – so think of the first lot as an insurance policy against rising rates.

    Importantly, we're not saying do it. We're saying weigh up the cost, and for many it's best doing that with a broker (see key info below).

    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 always search what's out there, as you could save £1,000s – see the market's top rates with our Mortgage Best Buys tool.

    • It's generally the fees: booking/application, legal, valuation and broker fees. You will be contracted to pay these 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, but if you are using a fee-charging broker 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 these fees work.

    • The main risk is, if better deals emerge in the meantime, you'd have been better off 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. Or...

      • 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:

      Other risks

      • 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.
    • Rates may be at rock bottom, but many factors affect what's YOUR best. So bash all your info into our Mortgage Best-Buys Comparison tool to first get a benchmark for your top deal.

      But we suggest that you use a broker to proceed any further, unless you're a mortgage expert. 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 outcomes to consider. A broker can advise you on these.

      • 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.
  2. Check your credit score BEFORE lenders do

    You need to convince lenders that you've got the financial discipline required to pay back your mortgage. One way they investigate this is by searching your credit report(s) to find out if you've a good repayment history – the main credit reference agencies who provide your report being Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.

    Your credit report lists your past credit cards, loans, overdrafts, mortgages and even mobile phone and some utility payments, for all accounts that were open over the past six years.

    It used to be that you'd have to pay to take a look at your own credit report, though now you can get them all for free. It is worth checking all three of them, as you don't know which one(s) your future mortgage lender will check, so ensure they're all up to scratch. For the full how-to, see our Check Your Credit Report For Free guide.

    Once you've checked your credit report, then have a read of our Credit Scores guide to see the best ways of polishing your file before you apply for any credit.

    • All lenders use at least one agency when assessing your file. This data comes from five main sources:
       

      • Electoral roll information. This is publicly available and contains address and residence details.

      • Court records. County court judgments (CCJs) and bankruptcies indicate if you have a history of debt problems.

      • Search, address and linked data. This includes records of other lenders that have searched your file when you've applied for credit, addresses you're linked to or other people you have a financial association with.

      • Fraud data. If you've committed a fraud (or someone has stolen your identity and committed fraud) this will be held on your file under the CIFAS section. More info below.

      • Account data. Banks, building societies, utility companies and other organisations keep details of all your payments and transactions on credit/store cards, loans, mortgages, bank accounts, energy and mobile phone contracts.

        In addition, payday loan data is now normally reported, and 'doorstep lenders' are legally obliged to share the data that they hold on you.

        Credit reference agencies will usually know:

         

        • How much you owe
        • How long you've had the relationship for
        • A record of the last 12 months' payments
        • The final outcome and date of any closed financial accounts
        • Any defaults or county court judgments in the last six years
        • Whether you're bankrupt or in a formal debt relief plan
    • There are many myths about what information is held on credit files. Don't be fooled, though. They hold an enormous amount of financial data, but there's lots they don't know about you.

      The following things are NOT listed on your report:
       

      • Child Support Agency payments
      • Council tax arrears
      • Race, religion, colour, medical history or criminal record
      • Information on relatives (unless you've a joint financial product with them)
      • Parking or driving fines
      • Salary
      • Savings accounts
      • Student loans (unless taken out pre-1998)
      • Old defaults or missed payments (from six+ years ago)
  3. Play the field to find the top mortgage 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.

  4. 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 – not to mention whether you can withstand the impact of the pandemic.

    To estimate how much you might be able to borrow, have a read of our How Much Can I Borrow? guide (which also contains a calculator), 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, but in brief:

    • The lender will add up your basic salary and a proportion of other types of income. This will normally include any bonuses, commission, benefits and second jobs. Most lenders won't accept past furlough income (the furlough scheme has now closed) or self-employed income support grants (the grants have also now ended) as part of their affordability tests.

    • It will then look at your outgoings. For example 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 also consider your debts and outgoings. For example debt repayments, maintenance payments, school fees etc. The lender 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.

    If you're in arrears, remortgaging might be more difficult. If you're in arrears, or fear you are about to go into arrears, it's imperative you speak to your lender immediately. See our Mortgage Arrears guide for full info.

  5. Pick your remortgage date carefully 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 (the equivalent of up to 5% on the outstanding mortgage balance).

    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

  6. Get the exact figure you still owe on your mortgage 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 December?"

    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? This is sometimes called an 'exit fee' or 'deeds release fee'? If so, how much is it?

    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.

  7. Self-employed? You'll have more hoops to jump through...

    If you're self-employed or would struggle to prove your long-term income – perhaps you've worked abroad or you are on a temporary contract – then getting a mortgage is tough. It's also really hard if your business has been impacted by the pandemic and you received one of the self-employed income support grants when they were available. While coronavirus support doesn't automatically exclude you from getting a mortgage, it might indicate to the lender that your business isn't sustainable in the long term.

    Either way, you'll need cast-iron proof of your income. Be prepared to provide up-to-date evidence to show how your business is faring. You'll also need to show:

    • Business accounts. You need to show preferably three years of accounts – though two is normally enough – usually signed off by a chartered accountant. Or...
       

    • Tax returns. 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. Note that many lenders won't accept past coronavirus grant support as part of your turnover/net profits.

    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.

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  8. 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.

  9. Now calculate how much of your home you own (and your loan-to-value)

    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 what proportion you've built up in equity. The ratio between these two is known as loan-to-value (LTV), something that'll impact what mortgage rate you could get.

    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) then the lower your LTV, and the lower your LTV then the lower an interest rate you'll be be able to get when remortgaging.

    Of course, you can remortgage to release equity if you need access to cash (say for home renovation), which would mean borrowing more than you currently owe on your property. But this is risky as you'll end up paying more each month and paying the debt off for longer. 

  10. Try to drop an LTV band – it'll make your mortgage 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 bands where interest rates really drop are at 90%, 80%, 75% and 60% LTV.

    There are two things you can do to get into a lower LTV band. You could:

    • Borrow less. 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.

      So 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.

  11. 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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  12. Sort your paperwork to speed up the process

    Remember all the paperwork and evidence you had to get together when you applied for your last mortgage? Yep, you've got to produce it all again...

    Prepare these a few weeks in advance, as your lender may want to see any, or all of:

    • Your last three months' bank statements
    • Your last three months' pay slips
    • Been furloughed in the past? A letter from your employer which states it intends to keep you on, now that the scheme has ended
    • Your last three years' accounts/tax returns (if self-employed)
    • 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.

  13. 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.

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