The mortgage market is incredibly competitive and it can be hard to understand what exactly is on offer.
There are many different providers and a wide range of products and rates available. So it's a good idea to talk to your bank, as well as a number of independent mortgage advisers, before making up your mind.
We’ll take you through the routes to getting a mortgage, and the importance of studying your options before making a decision.
Why it's usually a good idea to get mortgage advice
Lenders (usually banks) and brokers must offer advice when they recommend a mortgage for you.
They'll assess the level of mortgage repayments you can afford, by looking at your income as well as your debt repayments and day-to day spending. This means you should end up with a mortgage that suits your needs.
Although lenders and brokers must offer advice in almost all cases, you might be able choose to reject the advice and find your own mortgage deal based on your own research. If you choose your own mortgage without advice it's called an “execution-only” application. See Getting a mortgage for more information.
Money fitness tip
Gather your financial information together before you talk to lenders or advisers.
Risks of not getting advice
Getting advice rather than doing research on your own means that if the mortgage turns out to be unsuitable for you later on, you’ll have more rights when you make a complaint.
For example, you could make a complaint of financial mis-selling if the advice you were given turned out to be unsuitable for you. Not taking any advice means you have to take full responsibility for your mortgage decision.
If you don’t take advice you could end up:
- With the wrong mortgage for your situation, which would be a costly mistake in the long run.
- Being rejected by your chosen lender, because you didn’t understand the restrictions clearly or what circumstances the mortgage was designed for.
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Speak to your bank or building society
This is a good starting point, as they know you and your financial situation. They'll tell you about their own mortgages, so do see how their products stack up against the competition before making a final choice. Their advice is typically free.
When to see a mortgage adviser
A mortgage adviser, also known as an independent mortgage broker, is a specialist with in-depth knowledge of the market. They're able to look at a range of mortgage products which suit your needs.
It's a good idea to speak to a few of them to see what's on offer.
There are three main types of mortgage adviser:
- Some are tied to a specific lender
- Some look at deals from a limited list of lenders, and
- Some check the whole market for a wide range of products.
Even 'whole of market' advisers don’t cover everything. They can’t advise you on mortgages that are only available if you go to the lender directly.
All mortgage advisers must offer you advice when recommending the most suitable mortgage for you. This means you are protected and you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman if things go wrong.
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Other reasons to use an adviser
- They’ll check your finances to make sure you can afford a mortgage.
- They may have exclusive deals with lenders, not otherwise available.
- They often complete the paperwork for you, so your application should be dealt with faster.
- They’ll help you take all the costs and features of the mortgage into account, beyond the interest rate.
- They should only recommend a mortgage that is suitable for you and will tell you which ones you are likely to get.
Money fitness tip
Take the Keyfacts documents of any deal that you're interested in with you if you visit a mortgage broker, so you can compare them with what he/she advises.
Finding a mortgage adviser
We recommend using these websites to find a mortgage adviser:
Mortgage brokers might charge you for their service depending on the product you choose or the value of the mortgage. Others will be free to you but they’ll receive commission from the lender.
They should tell you up-front how much you will pay for their services. You should also be told if an adviser is paid commission. Once your broker makes a product recommendation they must give you a mortgage illustration document(s). This document is usually called a Key Facts Illustration.
European Standard Information Sheet
By 2019, the European Standard Information Sheet (ESIS) will replace the current KFI. The ESIS document is similar to the KFI but with some additional details about the mortgage they’re offering you.
Some mortgage advisers and lenders may give you the ESIS when they recommend a mortgage or make a mortgage offer. While others may continue to give you an enhanced version of the existing KFI document or provide additional supplements containing the additional information as needed until then.
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Money fitness tip
Ask the broker whether he/she is giving you information or advice and whether they are looking at the whole market or at a limited number of lenders.
Look at comparison tables
Comparison websites are a good starting point if you're trying to see what sort of deals are available on the market.
We recommend the following websites for comparing mortgages:
- Comparison websites won’t all give you the same results, so make sure you use more than one site before making a decision.
- It is also important to do some research into the type of product and features you need before making a purchase or changing supplier.
What to look for in a mortgage
It’s important to not just look for the lowest interest rate when choosing a mortgage. There are other factors, which also contribute to the whole amount you pay back over time.
Look out for:
- APRC (Annual Percentage Rate of Charge) takes some mortgage fees into account as well as the interest rate and expresses it as a percentage. See Understanding APR.
- Deposit size. The higher the deposit, the lower the interest rate you are likely to get.
- The standard rate - which your mortgage will switch to once your fixed rate deal ends.
- How often is interest charged? Will it be paid daily, monthly or annually? Daily interest works out cheaper.
- Flexibility. Can you overpay your mortgage without being charged and can you take a break from making payments?
- Length of fixed or variable rate deal. Do you want to be locked in for a long period or have more flexibility? There will be charges if you switch out of a deal before it ends.