We are now entering a particularly interesting phase in both the mortgage and property markets, as the economy teeters on the brink of either recovery or a double–dip recession. Whilst economists argue over the immediate future and politicians hit the campaign trail in earnest, the general public may be forgiven for feeling a little left out as in all honesty it is their every day experience that really matters.
As far as interest rates are concerned you could argue, as I have said before, that Bank Base has now entered a new phase – I call it “the expectation phase”. This is where many people expect a change but are not quite sure when, or by how much, and it is this expectation that can be a driver for all manner of decisions.
The real issue is how all of us are going to be affected as the artificial stimulus is slowly removed. As the end of QE, the car scrappage scheme, VAT concessions, etc, begin there are some real questions to be answered, not least is that the possibility of a second mortgage shortage is rearing its head as lenders struggle to find the cash to lend out.
I have always thought that this year will be “front-end loaded”, in other words that there will be better mortgage products, lower rates and more mortgage availability in the first half of the year than the latter.
This means that whilst it feels like things are improving now, with property prices recovering and lenders looking to lend at higher Loan-To-Values do not be surprised if it all turns around again after the election and the hiatus of the World Cup.
However, whilst things will remain tough for the remainder of the year, the positive signs and shifting in attitudes is everywhere to be seen and just as it will not take much to tip into the dark again, likewise it may not take too much to grab the reigns of a recovery. A decisive election, or rather whoever is elected, (hung parliament or not), delivering a decisive budget, together with a successful World Cup to harness the good feeling would help inordinately.
We have seen a massive rise in enquiry levels, from purchasers wanting to take advantage of low rates and competitive house prices, to remortgage customers looking at fixing before variable rates inevitably rise. As soon as there is any decisive action on rates, or the mere sniff of it, I expect fixed rates to burst with popularity and rise accordingly.
For first time buyers I do not see much change in the current status quo. Whilst there will be more availability of products aimed at the lifeblood of the housing market, a decent deposit, a good credit history and a sensible level of borrowing to income will remain for a long time yet. This means that without the Bank of Mum & Dad stepping in to assist those looking enviously at the property market now need to carry on saving like crazy.