Lender fees, valuation fees and legal fees add 0.55% on average to an annual buy to let mortgage costs in the UK and can add up to 2%, research shows. The figures from specialist broker Mortgages for Business come at a time when the demand for buy to let loans is rising. The firm says that headline rates can be misleading but overall buy to let rates are falling and the gap between cost of funds and rates has stabilised.
Costs were at a peak in 2010 when they added 0.66% to the average cost but this has since fallen although the firm points out that fees have a greater impact on short term, i.e. two year mortgages. While in 2010 they added an average of over 1.13% to annual costs whereas this is now around 0.85%.
The results were revealed in 12 indices which track the average buy to let mortgage costs of two, three and five year fixed rate and discounted/tracker mortgage products at 65% and 75% loan to value. The data was extracted from details of more than 16,000 buy to let mortgage products from 2008 onwards, held in Mortgage Flow, the broker’s bespoke sourcing tool.
‘By including fees we have produced indices that more accurately reflect the costs of taking on a buy to let mortgage without the distortions caused by the way lenders structure fees on products to meet marketing requirements,’ said David Whittaker, managing director of Mortgages for Business. ‘Lender arrangement fees vary enormously. Some products carry a flat fee but most have percentage fees which can be in excess of three per cent. This can make headline rates extremely misleading’.
For example, currently one of the lowest headline rates is 2.74% fixed for two years (5.1% APR) offered by The Mortgage Works. However, it comes with a 3.5% arrangement fee as well as valuation and legal fees which means that over two years the percentage cost is nearer 4.81%. Although Whittaker said this true cost is still cheaper than the current reversionary rate for products from The Mortgage Works of 4.99%.
The report also suggests that using the APR as an overall cost for comparison as legislated by the Financial Services Authority doesn’t particularly help borrowers understand the true costs involved because it fails to recognise the incentive to borrowers to re-mortgage at the end of the fixed rate or discount period.
Whilst fees can add a considerable amount, the research also revealed that rates have been falling steadily since they peaked in 2008 during the financial crisis which is great news for investors at a time when demand for rental accommodation continues to outstrip supply. The indices also provide evidence that the average margin over index costs has stabilised. In early 2008 discount/tracker buy to let mortgages cost around 1% more than LIBOR and fixed rate products cost around 1.5% above the related term swap. By the middle of 2009, as bank funding costs fell in response to Bank Base Rate being cut to 0.5%, this margin increased to around 4% to 5% for both product types and has stayed at this level ever since.
The report confirmed that this increase in margins is caused primarily by the increased perception of risk in all financial institutions that are paying a far higher risk premium to raise deposits than they did five years ago. This is also reflected in the interest rates paid for deposits by banks on the high street. Whereas they used to pay around 1% less than BBR for term deposits, they are now paying around 2% above BBR to attract funds.
Basel III regulations will, over time, require banks to double both their capital and liquidity margins. This additional capital safety margin within banks has had an inevitable effect on the cost of making loans and will help to ensure that lending margins do not revert to pre-crisis levels, the report points out. However, in the current market, rates are being driven down by the Finance for Lending Scheme and this should ensure that margins do not increase at least until after the scheme is due to expire in January 2014.