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Mortgage affordability test to be axed by the Bank of England


The Bank of England will axe a key mortgage affordability guideline designed to stop people from financially overstretching.

Following its latest review of the mortgage market, the central bank’s Financial Policy Committee has confirmed that from 1 August the affordability stress test making lenders pit borrowers’ funds against their high standard variable rates plus 3 per cent might be withdrawn.

The test is a component of recommendations introduced in 2014 within the aftermath of the financial crisis to protect against a loosening in mortgage underwriting standards and a cloth increase in household debt.

The stress test means borrowers have needed to prove they may still afford their mortgage repayments if their mortgage rate was to extend to three per cent above their lender’s standard variable rate.

The Financial Policy Committee has confirmed that it’s going to withdraw its affordability test Suggestion. It will come into effect from 1 August 2022.

With most borrowers on fixed rates and stanadard variable rates already higher than these, adding 3 per cent to them to check borrowers’ funds has been criticised as unrealistic. 

SVRs are the default rate that folks move to when fixed or other deals end and are far dearer, Albeit, most borrowers switch to a latest mortgage deal and do not find yourself on a typical variable rate.

The typical SVR has reached a 13-year high of 4.91 per cent, based on Moneyfacts, following an increase of 0.51 per cent since December 2021.

Based on the today’s average, the removal of the affordability stress test signifies that a typical borrower will now not be assessed on whether or not they could hypothetically afford an rate of interest of three percentage points above 4.91 per cent.

The choice to remove this test may due to this fact offer respite to some borrowers, particularly provided that higher mortgage rates and the fee of living is already starting to have ramifications for affordability and what people can borrow.

Lenders are increasingly taking higher bills under consideration when assessing what borrowers can afford to pay every month toward their mortgage.

Santander, for instance, has already factored increased national insurance, household expenditure and dividend income tax rates into its affordability calculations. Others are expected to do the identical.

Chris Sykes, technical director at mortgage brokerage, Private Finance said: ‘Recently we have now seen many lenders altering their affordability calculators, each as a result of the rising costs of living in addition to the rising rates of interest that we’re seeing.

‘This mornings news release detailing they’re withdrawing their stress testing recommendations is great news for borrowers that were becoming increasingly tight on affordability and it’s limiting their borrowing power with each change to affordability calculators.’

Nonetheless, whilst the stress test might be scrapped, the opposite advice made in 2014, the loan-to-income ‘flow limit,’ will proceed.

The loan-to-income-ratio is the multiple at which banks will lend based on someone’s annual salary.

This implies banks will proceed to put a limit on the variety of mortgages they will offer where someone is borrowing greater than 4.5 times their salary.

The loan-to-income flow limit was deemed more necessary than the affordability test in guarding against a rise in overall household indebtedness in an environment of rapidly rising house prices. 

What’s going to the removal of the stress test mean?

The choice has raised fears that it may lead to irresponsible lending and enable people to borrow beyond their means. 

Nonetheless, the impact is probably not as great as some fear. The affordability stress test has caused just 6 per cent of individuals to take a smaller mortgage than they otherwise may need, based on the Bank of England. This equates to roughly 30,000 mortgages a yr.

Mortgage brokers have also been quick to downplay concerns of this marking a return towards the irresponsible lending practices within the run as much as 2007/08 crash.

Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, says: ‘Scrapping of the affordability test isn’t as reckless as it could sound.

‘The loan-to-income framework stays, so there’ll still be some restrictions in place; it isn’t turning right into a free-for-all on the lending front.

‘Lenders can even still use some type of testing but to their very own selecting based on their risk appetite.’

Some light relief? Higher mortgage rates and the cost of living is already beginning to have ramifications for affordability and what people can borrow.

Some light relief? Higher mortgage rates and the fee of living is already starting to have ramifications for affordability and what people can borrow.

Moreover, these affordability checks have also been blamed for stopping some first-time buyers taking out mortgages that will be cheaper than their rent.

Harris adds: ‘It could have a positive impact on certain borrowers who’ve been disadvantaged on the subject of getting on the property ladder.

‘For instance, first-time buyers who’ve been affording rents far in excess of actual mortgage payments but have failed affordability assessments regardless.’

Similarly, based on Chris Sykes, this would possibly not be a case of the flood gates opening given how briskly mortgage rates have been rising over recent months and the proven fact that the loan-to-income measures are still in place.

‘Simply because the recommendations change it doesn’t suggest that banks will routinely change the best way they appear at things,’ said Sykes, ‘they still have an obligation of care, they need to be seen to be lending responsibly and in addition they have their very own internal risk committees that that will must approve any changes.

‘What it will allow, is for added innovation by lenders. 

‘Perhaps it could encourage some lower stress rates for those who need it most with low income but with perfect credit and years of experience paying their rent.

‘We already often see lower stress rates for remortgages, so long as no additional borrowing is being taken and so they have a clean credit record. 

‘This might help additional people remortgaging whose incomes have reduced as a result of Covid changing their working circumstances for instance.

‘The important thing here is that the Loan-to-income measures are still in place, so there are still large measures to guard borrowers and lenders.’

Could we see lenders chill out the loan-to-income limits?

At present, the regulatory requirement is that lenders only offer a certain variety of loans over 4.5 times annual income.

Typically as much as a maximum of 10 per cent a lender’s loan book may be reserved for those borrowing over 4.5 times their annual income.

The most recent housing data from Halifax showed house prices rise again in May with the typical house price reaching one other record of £289,099.

Meanwhile, regular pay fell by 2.2 per cent from February to April – adjusted for inflation – based on the ONS.

The typical house price is now price almost nine times the typical income.

Lenders can only offer a certain number of loans over 4.5 times annual income, but average house prices are almost 9x the average annual income.

Lenders can only offer a certain variety of loans over 4.5 times annual income, but average house prices are almost 9x the typical annual income.

That is meaning that many first-time buyers and residential movers, have been needing to stretch themselves to the very best loan-to-income ratio possible as a way to afford the variety of property they would love to live in.

Sykes said: ‘Buying power has reduced especially during the last two years and buyers cannot afford the identical sized property or variety of bedrooms they once could.

‘With this in mind we wonder, could we see a proportion of lenders starting to succeed in these regulatory limits?

‘Now we have seen more flexibility from lenders over the previous couple of years during times of enormous house price growth to assist borrowers, nonetheless we’re beginning to query how for much longer can this be sustained considering the present rules, unless these regulations are flexed to reflect the present climate.

‘With house prices soaring and affordability concerns, possibly there must be more flexibility regarding this regulation and for the share of loans above the 4.5 times income to extend to ensure that more people to get onto the housing ladder.’

Best mortgage rates and easy methods to find them

Mortgage rates have risen substantially because the Bank of England’s base rate has climbed rapidly.

For those who need to buy your first home, move or remortgage, it is important to get good independent mortgage advice from a broker who can enable you find the perfect deal. 

To assist our readers find the perfect mortgage, That is Money has partnered with independent fee-free broker L&C.

Our mortgage calculator can allow you to filter deals to see which of them suit your house’s value and level of deposit.

You may also compare different mortgage fixed rate lengths, from two-year fixes, to five-year fixes and ten-year fixes, with monthly and total costs shown.

Use the tool on the link below to check the perfect deals, factoring in each fees and rates. 

> Compare the perfect mortgage deals available now  

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