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Lenders will compete on mortgage rates but don’t expect a price war – Hunt

by: Bob Hunt, chief executive of Paradigm Mortgage Services
  • 26/04/2023
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Lenders will compete on mortgage rates but don’t expect a price war – Hunt
With the first quarter of 2023 now behind us, spring clearly underway, and with hopefully a fair wind pushing the mortgage market, it’s possible to see a much more positive outlook for the year ahead than we might have anticipated at the tail-end of last year.

Despite having a long way to run, and the most recent increase to Bank Base Rate (BBR), it’s possible to see a greater degree of equilibrium between housing supply and demand, resulting in a more realistic price view of property.  

Product rates are also benefitting from lender competition, particularly in the mainstream market. 

Some commentators may be looking at this and thinking, “This wasn’t supposed to happen”, yet again underestimating the resilience of the sector and perhaps how deeply ingrained homeownership is in our culture.  

On that note, Halifax has just announced a monthly increase in house prices of 0.8 per cent, following a 1.2 per cent rise in February. Another one to file in the box marked, “We were told this wouldn’t happen”. 

 

The real driver behind falling mortgage rates

Certainly, there appears much more to be positive about right now and this is reflected in the downward shift in product pricing we are currently seeing.  

We all knew that lenders would have to respond in order to secure the market share they require and that has definitely been the case in recent weeks. 

It’s particularly true for the high street and mainstream lending behemoths but also reflected in where the local and regional building societies are willing to tread. Of course, we shouldn’t forget the specialist residential players too. 

For wannabe or existing borrowers perhaps reflecting (and worrying) about the continued upward trend for BBR, the message of strong mortgage competition and downward pressure on actual mortgage product rates has to be one shouted into their ears by all of us in the industry. 

As a number have pointed out, the overwhelming media focus on BBR is understandable but what we don’t want to lose sight of is the disconnect between BBR and products, and of course how swaps drive our market, often in a far more impactful way than base rate. 

It’s why we see a large number of five-year fixes, for example, at lower loan to value (LTVs) and why we’ve also seen two-year fixes creeping down. 

Without wanting to predict where we will go next, it’s instructive to look at current SONIA swaps with five, seven, and 10-year fixed rates all below four per cent, with three and two-year only just above. 

Lest we forget that BBR was raised to 4.25 per cent and is forecast to rise again. 

 

Lenders are in the running 

That suggests to me that, at what is normally a very busy time for the housing market, lenders are unlikely to want to step back from being competitive – far from it.  

And, of course, given that level of competition – particularly for lower-risk, lower LTV business – it seems quite likely we’ll see rates inching down without quite entering a ‘price war’ phase. 

There remains a lot of product choice available in the market, particularly for the longer-term fixes. Given that many borrowers are likely to want payment certainty at a time when other costs are rising, one wonders whether more lenders will be launching products into this space, with a variety of different fee options attached. 

Overall, this presents opportunities for advisers, particularly in the remortgage space where many borrowers are going to be coming off deals which are priced very differently to what is currently available, and also in the purchase market where we are likely to see something of a spring bounce. 

As the sun has begun to peak through and as the nights grow longer, it’s possible to see those green mortgage shoots growing stronger and hopefully marking the start of a positive period for all stakeholders. 

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