MSE News

Mortgage rates: what you can and should do (if anything) amid the market turmoil

The mortgage market is in turmoil, with several major lenders including Skipton Building Society and Virgin Money being the first to pull their deals from the market completely. Many others including Halifax, HSBC, Santander and TSB have since either withdrawn their fixed-rate offers or replaced them at hugely increased rates. As the turbulence continues, here's what you can and should do, if anything.

More than 1,000 deals have been cut since the turmoil started, according to comparison service Moneyfacts – meaning less choice for mortgage switchers. See our Mortgage Best Buys tool for the latest rates.

Lenders have now replaced some of these deals, but at much higher rates. In fact, rates have increased so much over the past 12 months that the average rates on two-year and five year fixes are now more than DOUBLE what they were in October 2021 (6.07% and 5.97% respectively), Moneyfacts said. Approximately 2,200 mortgage deals are currently available.

The tremors in the market are down to a number of factors, including the Bank of England lifting the base rate, the big increase in government borrowing to lower energy bills through a new cap and the Chancellor's tax cutting mini-budget, which spooked the money markets. 

All this pushed Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey to say that more rate hikes are on the way. The markets are now working on the fact that the base rate could rise to nearly 6% by next spring, meaning lenders have pulled cheaper deals that look unaffordable in the future. 

For each 1 percentage point your mortgage rate increases, expect to pay roughly £50 more a month (£600/year) per £100,000 of mortgage debt.
Use our Mortgage Calculator to see your exact numbers.

If those rate predictions ring true (and the markets are not always right), without any further measures, that would likely push millions renewing when their fixes end into 'can't pay my mortgage' territory. The current situation is nearly unprecedented, changing fast and extremely uncertain. We do our best to guide you through some sensible moves below, but no one really knows what's coming next.

Note: This article was first published in our weekly email on Wednesday 28 September 2022 – the team updated it on Thursday 6 October 2022.

Should you act now? It's a tough call. Normally we'd caution against knee-jerk reactions on the back of what's happening in the financial markets. However, with rates being repriced constantly, if you are in the position where you are free to get a new mortgage (such as those coming to the end of a fix, or already on a standard variable rate), it's worth checking, and doing so immediately. Let's take you through what to do...

1. ON A VARIABLE OR TRACKER RATE? See if you can ditch, switch and save

Once you know your new mortgage rate following the base rate rise, check urgently to see if you can ditch, switch and save - and act quickly, as today's rates are currently being rapidly reviewed and increased. This is especially likely for those on standard variable rate (SVR) mortgages. Here's how:

PS. A note on mortgage prisoners. If this situation is bad for most mortgage holders, it is a nightmare for the up to 200,000 mortgage holders – many still suffering the fallout of the 2008 financial crash - that are stuck paying expensive mortgages to companies that don't issue new mortgages. 

We've been campaigning on this desperate issue for a number of years, and will continue, though the latest interest rate rises makes it far tougher. We do have a 
mortgage prisoners help guide and while it's likely to be slim pickings at the moment it is worth a look if you haven't already.

2. ON A FIXED RATE MORTGAGE? Check when it ends and remember to act 3 to 6 months ahead

Fixed rate deals typically last two, three or five years (a few may be longer). We're often surprised how many people don't know when theirs will end - and this isn't a good time for surprise. So make sure you know and note it down.

If you're coming towards the end of your deal, act NOW. Some lenders let you lock in a rate six months in advance - and many more let you lock in three months ahead. Full info in long lock-in mortgage help, but as a rule of thumb...

If your fix ends before March 2023, check deals now, as rates are likely to rise further, and today's rates may soon disappear.

Use the how to check if you should switch mortgage info above to go through what to do.

What if your fixed deal isn't ending soon, can you still switch? It's not surprising many are asking this question when rates are rocketing. The concept is 'should I ditch a little time on my current cheap fix, to lock in for longer and prevent hideous rises in future?' 

On the surface it looks a sensible question, but there are a number of things to consider...

- Early repayment penalties: Ditching your fixed rate mortgage before it ends will normally result in an early repayment charge - something that can cost you £1,000s and, in normal times at least, make ditching a fix prohibitive.

- You're taking a bet on future rates: While it looks like they are going to be far, far higher in future, if there's anything the past few years has taught us, it's that unknown unknowns could flip that around at speed. There are no guarantees, and without a crystal ball, we don't know how much rates will rise by.

If this is something you're considering, we'd push you to speak to a mortgage broker, who'll can run you through the pros and cons to see if it's worth it.

3. Millions can save £10,000s overpaying. But for others, savings work out better.

Most lenders allow those in the middle of a fixed or variable deal to make mortgage overpayments, though this is normally capped, typically at 10% of the outstanding balance each year.

Overpaying means you clear the mortgage quicker, which means you pay less interest in total - and savings can be huge. For example, on a £150,000 mortgage at 5% (25-year term), overpay £100 monthly and you'd reduce interest by £23,000 and repay four years and six months earlier. Use our Mortgage overpayment calculator to check.

Plus, as overpaying means you'll owe less, you may be able to get a cheaper deal when you come to remortgage. The main bands where interest rates really drop are at 90%, 80%, 75% and 60%. So, if you overpay enough to drop to a lower band, it can be a big winner. 

Yet overpaying isn't the right option for everyone...

4. EVER THOUGHT OF DOWNSIZING? Some may balk at the idea, but it could rid you of your loan

Inflation is a funny thing. When we talk about food inflation, petrol inflation, energy inflation - we hate it. Yet often property price inflation is celebrated.

However, while homeowners may feel rising prices make them feel secure, it's a bit meaningless until you come to sell (or you remortgage to use the equity in your home - that just means bigger debt though).

And even then if you're selling to upgrade, rising property prices mean you'll need to find more money to jump that gap.

So with the huge rise in prices in many parts of the UK, and mortgages getting more expensive, it's worth thinking if you're in the position to downsize. It's likely this will especially suit any empty-nesters whose kids are now independent adults - with big houses for few people.

We know some will balk at the mere idea, but it's just a thought.

5. GET HELP IF YOU'RE STRUGGLING TO PAY. Avoid missing repayments without first speaking to your lender

With the cost of living increasing, many homeowners are struggling to meet their mortgage repayments. Missing a mortgage payment is known as falling into 'arrears'. You want to try to avoid this as best you can, as it'll have a serious impact on your ability to get credit in future. 

Full info on what wider support is out there in our Mortgage arrears guide, but in brief:

  • Change the terms of your mortgage - you could agree with your lender to extend your mortgage term, so you have longer to pay off your debt, or switch to an interest-only mortgage to cut repayments. This might provide some relief, but will increase costs - full info in ways lenders can help.

  • Get help with your mortgage repayments - if you're on certain benefits, such as universal credit, you may be able to claim support for mortgage interest.

  • Get free, one-to-one debt-counselling help - the likes of Citizens AdviceStepChange or National Debtline can help you understand your options, and if you need emotional support, try CAP instead. You may also find the MSE Mental Health & Debt guide useful.

MSE weekly email

FREE weekly MoneySaving email

For all the latest deals, guides and loopholes simply sign up today – it's spam-free!