The UK property market is showing signs of an improvement, mainly down to mortgage lenders approving more loans and low interest rates.
The government's Help to Buy scheme is also helping first time buyers and new home owners get on the property ladder and the 'Funding for Lenders' program means mortgage lenders have access to funds more easily to back loans.
Various lending institutions are also doing their bit to encourage more borrowers back to the market. Halifax, which is part of the UK tax payer owned Lloyds Banking Group, has just announced plans to help first time property buyers, by paying the stamp duty for them up to a limit of £ 2,500. This should ease the cost for a number of buyers.
Stamp Duty Land Tax is payable on any property bought for more than £ 125,000 (houses sold for less than this are exempt). There is a 1% tax on properties sold for between £ 125,000 and £ 250,000, 3% on properties between £ 250,000 and £ 500,000 and then 4% for those buying properties worth up to a million, 5% if buying up to 2 million and for the elite few buying even more expensive houses; well they will face a whopping 7% tax bill.
Halifax is hiring to gain more customers to the first time buyers market by offering the incentive of covering stamp duty up to £ 2,500. This means Buyers will be able to purchase a house up to £ 250,000 and have any stamp duty covered by the lender. First time Buyers represent a huge section of the housing market and accounted for up to around 40% of all house purchases in 2012.
Halifax will help cover the stamp duty by enabling the buyer to get the funds through a cash back option with their mortgage. The solicitor dealing with the legal side of the purchase will receive a 1% cash back on completion to pay off their obligations to cover the stamp duty.
The average cost to buy a home now amounts to thousands on top of the actual purchase price by the time stamp duty, legal costs, removals and other associated costs are taken into account. Often first time Buyers over look the need for stamp duty land tax to be paid as they are concentrating so hard on saving for a deposit. The Halifax will offer a two year fixed rate mortgage at a rate of 3.24% to anyone that can save a 20% deposit, although if the buyer can only raise a 15% deposit, then the rate increases to 3.79%.
It is rented more mortgage lenders will start to offer similar packages. When the government implemented the stamp duty holiday last year, there was a marked increase in first time buyers getting on the property market.
However, as with any financial product, you need to read the small print carefully and take professional advice. For example you may get a better deal from another lender at a lower rate, which will save you money in the long run, even if you have to stump up the money for the stamp duty tax at the start.
Also it is important to not just rely on 'Best-Buy' tables and comparison websites and charts as often these do not show the whole picture. Mortgage rates are at an all time low at the moment but arrangement fees and other associated costs have increased drastically in the last few years. Choosing a mortgage based on one with the lowest interest rate from a comparison chart or table in a magazine, newspaper or online, may not offer you the best available mortgage or one that suits your needs.
The 'Funding for Lending' scheme by the government means that banks and building societies have access to cheaper funds and so mortgage rates have dropped because of this, with some of the lowest 2 and 5 year fixed rate deals every known. But lending institutions have, at the same time, increased their fees. Back in 2009 the average arrangement fee was £ 937, now the average fee charged on a mortgage is almost £ 500 more at £ 1,402. And some of the mortgage products with the lowest rates actually have some of the highest fees. Much depends on the amount you are needing to borrow. If you are only requiring a small loan, then you would probably be better choosing a mortgage with a higher fixed rate but lower fees, while if you are requiring a large mortgage, then it is better to go for a lower rate but an higher set up fee. It is also important to take into account the length of the deal. Higher arrangement fees over a longer term mortgage offer a better deal than over a shorter term.
Whenever you are considering a mortgage, proceed with care and do the maths first. Work out what the mortgage will cost you with all fees with different lenders and you may be surprised that a deal with a lower rate but higher arrangement fee, may end up costing you several hundred pounds more than borrowing the same amount from a different bank but that has a slightly high rate and lower set up cost.