How to choose the right mortgage for you

Published by Rachel Lacey on 03 July 2014.
Last updated on 04 July 2014


Whether you are buying a new property or just remortgaging there are several factors you need to consider when choosing your mortgage and working out how much you can afford to borrow.

So before you do any research it really pays to think about your circumstances as this should have a significant bearing on the type of loan you go for, the lender you approach and, if you are buying a new property, how much you can afford to borrow.

In order to do this you need to think about your lifestyle and really put your spending under the microscope - there is no point stretching yourself to the limit if your financial circumstances are likely to change in the near future; for example, you are unsure of your job security or plan to start a family.

And it makes sense to do this before you apply for any loans. Under new rules introduced as part of Mortgage Market Review, lenders are going to greater lengths to prove you can afford the loan, not just now but in the future too when interest rates could be higher.

How much can I afford to borrow?

In addition to working out how much you can afford to borrow, it also pays to consider how much you can afford to put down as a deposit. While there are loans available at 95% of the property's value (the loan to value or LTV) for borrowers who can only afford to pay a 5% deposit, the more you can afford to put down, the better the rate you will get.

The lowest rates tend to be reserved for those borrowers with a deposit worth 40% or more, because they are perceived to be less risky to lenders. This means they are either the preserve of wealthy buyers, or homemovers or remortgagers who have capital built up in their homes.

However, if you are a first time buyer struggling to take that first step on the ladder there are alternative options – such as Help to Buy or shared ownership schemes.

What help is there for first-time buyers?

With a clear idea of both how much you can afford to borrow and how much you can afford to put down as a deposit you are in a much better position to go mortgage shopping. However, before you start it makes sense to stop and think about interest rates and where they are headed.

Find the best mortgage for you


Nobody expects you to be an economist or the proud owner of a rate-predicting crystal ball – after all, the financial crisis that saw interest rates plummet to 0.5% caught even the experts by surprise. Nonetheless it pays to take an interest as the outlook may very well influence your eventual choice and, depending what the future holds in store, determine whether the loan is affordable both now and in the coming years.

Everything you need to know about interest rates

Having a view on interest rates can also help you narrow down your mortgage choices. If you are concerned that they will rise you may want the peace of mind offered by a fixed-rate mortgage, which ensures that your mortgage repayments will not go up (or down) whatever happens to interest rates. This can be an advantage if there's no wiggle room in your budget.

Alternatively if you are less concerned about your repayments going up or down you can go for a discount on the lender's standard variable rate or a tracker, which go up and down in line with the Bank of England base rate.

Which mortgage suits you best?


Only now are you ready to start shopping around. Mortgage comparison services can help you do this online: by entering your requirements in terms of loan and deposit size as well your product preference, the website will quickly come up with a list of ‘best-buys'.

However, best buy doesn't always mean best for you. It's also important to check how flexible the loan is – how much can you overpay, for example. This could be really important if you receive bonuses at work or are likely to receive any other lump sums that you want to use to get your mortgage balance down. If you want utmost flexibility and have sizeable savings, it may also make sense to go for an offset mortgage.

Five-minute guide to offset mortgages

You should also pay close attention to fees – these have been creeping up in recent years and can be as much as £2,000 (if not more) on the cheapest rate mortgages. For a great rate on a large loan it may be worth stumping up the money, but if you have a smaller loan it may make sense to go for a mortgage with a higher rate and a lower fee.

Rates v fees: Should you ever pay a whopping fee for your mortgage?

For many borrowers, particularly those who are remortgaging or have no complex requirements, it should be relatively straightforward to research and apply for a mortgage yourself.

However, if you don't fancy doing the legwork or have more complex requirements - you are self-employed for example - a consultation with an independent mortgage adviser could be very useful. The same applies if you'd prefer an interest-only loan or if the term is likely to stretch into your retirement.

Not only will brokers have access to a wider range of loans, but they'll also have a much better idea as to which lenders are most likely to accept your application, saving you stress during what could be a very stressful time. Likewise, if you are concerned about the new affordability assessments, a broker will be best-placed to help you through the process and help you select the lender that's most likely to accept your application.

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