Glossary of Common Terms Used During the Mortgage Process

APR – This stands for Annual Percentage Rate. It enables you to compare the full cost of the mortgage. Rather than just being an interest rate, it includes up front and ongoing costs of taking out a mortgage. The formula for calculating APR is set by Government Regulations and therefore enables direct comparison of the cost of mortgages.

Capital and Interest Mortgage – This is when part of your monthly payment contributes to paying off the outstanding mortgage in addition to paying the interest on the mortgage. The payments are structured so that at the end of the term, your mortgage will have been completely paid off. For this reason this type of mortgage is also called a Repayment Mortgage.

Capped Rate – This is a mortgage where the lender agrees that the interest charged will never exceed a specific percentage. This deal lasts for a set period of years. After the set period, the rate usually reverts to the lenders standard variable rate. During the capped period, the interest charges can move up and down with the lenders interest rate – but cannot exceed the capped rate.

Cashback – An amount, either fixed or a percentage of a mortgage, which you can opt to receive when you complete your mortgage. The lender may well claw back this money through a higher interest rate.

CAT marks/standards – CAT stands for Fair Charges, Easy Access and decent Terms. They were created by the Government in an attempt to provide consumers with simple, clear financial products with straightforward, easy to understand terms. A CAT mortgage will have no arrangement fees, no redemption fees and will have interest calculated daily. It will also have a minimum loan of just £5000, offer you repayment flexibility and the mortgage should be portable should you move home. Finally, you will not have to buy the lender’s insurance products and there will be no penalties should you find yourself in arrears but can subsequently catch up.

Completion – This is end of the house buying process, when the funds are transferred and the keys are handed over. Happy moving!

Contract – A contract is a binding agreement between the buyer and seller. In the context of house buying, after the contract is signed by both the buyer and the seller it is then ‘exchanged’ between the respective solicitors for a set completion date. At that point, the contract is legally binding on both parties.

Conveyancing – This is the legal process in which property is bought and sold. You can do it yourself or hire a solicitor or specialised conveyancer to perform the tasks for you. The buying of a freehold is much less complicated than the buying of a leasehold.

Discounted Rate – This is where the lender makes a guaranteed reduction off the standard variable rate for an agreed period of time. After the discounted period ends, the mortgage usually moves to the lenders’ standard variable rate. Watch out for redemption penalties that overhang the initial discount period.

Early Redemption Charges – Redemption is when the borrower pays off the capital and the interest on the mortgage and thus owns the property outright. Early redemption fees are the charges incurred for paying off the mortgage early, either to buy the house outright, move or re-mortgage. Always ask about early redemption charges before you agree a mortgage.

Endowment – Endowments are life assurance policies with an investment element designed to pay off the outstanding capital on an interest-only mortgage. There are a few types of endowments, such as ‘with profits’, ‘unitised with profits’ and ‘unit-linked’. In the 1980s, these were sold by salesman who seemly suggested that these policies were “guaranteed” to pay off the mortgage at the end of the term. However, the investment returns on these policies have fallen to below what was previously considered to be the norm. Consequently, many policies are not worth what was originally forecast and may not fully repay the money borrowed at the end of the mortgages’ term.

Equity – In housing terminology, equity is the difference between the value of the property and the money owed on the property. So if the property is valued at £200,000 and you owe £150,000 on the mortgage, you have equity of £50,000. If you sold at that moment, you would receive £50,000. Should the value of the home be less than the mortgage outstanding then you have negative equity.

Freehold – Owning the freehold means that you own the total rights to the property and the land on which it is built.

HLC – This is the Higher Lending Charge (it was previously known as a Mortgage Indemnity Guarantee). It is levied by around three quarters of all lenders on clients who cannot afford to put down a deposit of 10% of the price of the property. In practice it is a type of insurance aimed at protecting the lender should you default on your mortgage when the value of your home is less than the capital you borrowed. The insurance only provides cover for the lender, not you, and typically costs £1,500.

Homebuyers Report – A property survey aimed at providing more information than a mortgage valuation but less information than a full structural survey. It will help the borrower to decide whether to purchase and help the lender to decide how much to lend.

Interest Only Mortgage – This is a mortgage where your monthly repayments only pay the interest on the mortgage. Therefore, at the end of the mortgage you still have to repay the full sum you borrowed. You are advised to have a separate investment vehicle into which you make payments aimed at building up a fund capable of paying off the mortgage capital at the end of the term. Typical investments include ISA’s, a pension or an endowment policy.

IFAs – Stands for Independent Financial Advisor. These advisors are regulated by the Financial Services Authority. To be classified as “independent” they have to be able to offer you the full range of products from all financial product providers. They are not entitled to describe themselves as “independent” if they can only offer products from a restricted panel of financial companies. A Financial Advisor can be one man band or work for very large companies. Before they make any recommendation, an IFA must carry out a detailed fact find so they fully understand your financial circumstances. They can then make their recommendations to suit your personal circumstances.

ISA – An ISA is an Individual Savings Account, which is a tax-free method of owning shares, building up a cash savings account or a life assurance policy. You can use an ISA to build up a capital sum to repay an interest only mortgage.

Leasehold – If your property is leasehold, ownership of the property reverts to the Freeholder at a set date. Many houses were originally sold on 999 year leases which means that 999 years after the initial date of the Leasehold, ownership of the property reverts to the Freeholder. Building in multiple occupation such as apartments, are always sold on a leasehold and usually have a much shorter leasehold period – 100 and 125 years is quite common. Often, with a block of apartments, the apartment owners individually own the leaseholds whilst a management company, in which they hold shares, owns the freehold. These days, however, leaseholders who live in the property have the legal right to buy their freehold under terms laid down by UK law.

Life Insurance – This can also be called Term Insurance or, when specifically linked to proprty purchase, as Mortgage Protection Insurance. It is designed to pay a tax free lump sum in the event of your death to enable your mortgage to be repaid in full. There are a number of variants such as Level Term Life Insurance and Decreasing Term Life Insurance. At the outset you take out insurance for the full sum you have borrowed from your mortgage lender and for the same number of years as you have agreed on your mortgage. These insurance policies do not have any investment or surrender value. The premiums are based on a number of factors – the main ones being the amount of cover you need, your age, health and how many years you want to be insured for.

Lock-In Period – This is the minimum period you have agreed to stay with the lender. Depending on the deal, it could be as low as six months up to the whole of the term. Should you wish to repay the mortgage or remortgage during the lock-in period, you will invariably have to pay redemption penalties. Always make sure you know how long you are locked in for with your mortgage.

LTV – Literally means Loan to Value. This is a measurement of the mortgage amount against the value of the property or the price that you are actually paying. A £157,500 mortgage on a property for which you paid £175,000 would be a LTV of 90%. Lenders tend to charge a Mortgage Indemnity Premium on mortgages with a loan to value of anything about 75%. Some don’t so ask about this.

MIG – This has now changed its name to HLC. See above.

Mortgage – A mortgage is a long-term loan taken out in order to buy a property with repayment secured on that property. So if you don’t keep to the repayment terms, the lender can repossess the property, sell it and retain the money they are owed. Any balance is then paid to you. If the property is sold for less than you owe your lender, you still remain liable to repay the shortfall.

Mortgage Advisor – On October 31st 2004 the selling of mortgages in the UK came under the remit of the City watchdog, The Financial Services Authority (FSA). As from that date any person providing mortgage advice had to be registered with the FSA and abide by its rules of conduct, methods of operating and training programmes etc. The objective has been to improve life for the consumer by offering better protection, clear information and access to redress for poor advice.

Negative Equity – Negative equity is when the value of your home is less than the amount that you owe on your mortgage plus any other loans secured against it. It can happen very easily if you take out a 100% mortgage or if property prices fall. (Also see Higher Lending Charge)

Portable – This is a measure of how easy it is to move a mortgage from one property to another should a property move be required. This is vital if you are moving during your lock-in-period and wish to avoid redemption penalties.

Repayment Mortgage – This is the same as a Capital and Interest mortgage – see above.

Searches – During the conveyancing process, the buyer has to be sure that the seller has title to the property and identify any matters may affect the prospective owners ownership of the property. For example, whether the property is affected by any proposed road building, whether there are preservation orders affecting the property, is it a listed building and has it been built in accordance with planning conditions and building regulations. Searches will also show whether there are mines under or close by the property. This information is obtained by the person undertaking the conveyancing from HM Land Registry and the relevant Local Authority. These investigations are collectively known as “Searches”.

Self-Certification – Should you have difficulty in providing documentation that “proves” your income to a prospective mortgage lender, you may need a self-certification mortgage. In essence you personally certify what your full income is. If you receive high bonuses, or work seasonally or on commission, or are self-employed this may be your best option. You declare your income plus some evidence that your declaration is reasonable. Ideally lenders want to see as much guaranteed income as possible. To compensate the lender for the increased risk they are taking on a self-certified mortgage, they will charge you a higher rate interest, typically 1% over their standard variable rate.

Stamp Duty Land Tax (commonly known simply as Stamp Duty) – You pay Stamp Duty Land Tax on property like houses, flats, other buildings and land. If the purchase price is £120,000 or less, you don’t pay any Stamp Duty Land Tax. If the price is more than £120,000, you pay between one and four per cent of the whole purchase price, on a sliding scale.

Upto £120,000 – No duty payable

£120,001 to £250,000 – 1% duty payable*

£250,001 to £500,000 – 3% duty payable

£500,001 and over – 4% duty payable

*If you’re buying a property an area designated by the government as ‘disadvantaged’, you don’t pay any Stamp Duty Land Tax if the purchase price is £150,000 or less.

Did you know? Stamp Duty was originally introduced by William of Orange when he was King of England.

Structural Survey – The most thorough report you can get on the condition of the property you are considering to buy. The surveyor will look in detail at the inside and outside of the property and will tell you if the property is structurally sound. All major and minor defects in the building will also be listed and should tell you what maintenance work may be needed either now or in the future. You should make sure the scope of the survey is agreed in writing before you commission it. Should the survey identify problems, use them to negotiate a reduction in the price before you exchange contracts.

Variable Rate – This is when the interest rate you pay on your mortgage can go up or down depending on changes to the lender’s standard variable rate. If you have a variable rate mortgage your monthly mortgage payments will change whenever the lender changes the interest rate.

Valuation – This is where a valuer appointed by your proposed lender, visits the property in order to estimate its current value. This value is then used by the lender as a basis for its security and to calculate its Loan to Value Ratio. The borrower never sees the valuation. With some mortgage deals the lender absorbs the cost of the valuation but in many cases the borrower has to pay upfront.

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