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How the base rate rise ruined my day

Quite a few brokers will join me in having egg on their faces following the surprise decision by the Monetary Policy Committee to raise the base rate. This is my story.

The morning started quietly enough, there was the usual trickle of calls from journalists as I expect on the day the MPC meets.

“Will the Bank of England put up rates?” they asked. “Unlikely,” I responded, “We are expecting a rise later this year but inflationary pressure is not biting…” and so on.

Then at 12.02 I picked up the phone to be asked: “Given our earlier conversation, what do you think of the Bank’s decision?”

“Pardon?” I said, admitting I hadn’t had time to absorb the news. Meanwhile, like a character in a kids’ movie, steam came out of my ears and my eyes popped out on stalks. My quiet day had just been replaced with questions, a press release and phone calls.

But honesty is the best policy so I said I was surprised the MPC had raised the base rate, especially as recent strong consumption data was consistent with the Bank’s forecasts.

“What does this mean?” the hack pressed. “Well, it suggests that the MPC has made a pre-emptive move to counteract inflationary pressure,” I answered.

The scribe continued. “What effect will this have on the housing market and have lenders and brokers done enough to warn people what will happen to their mortgage repayments as a result of a rate rise?”

Clearly any increase will have an effect on the market but lenders have been anticipating a rise, though admittedly not this early.

Last month the BSA warned borrowers not to overcommit themselves as a rate rise was predicted. But even with rates on the move, most people will be able to manage their debt commitments. For instance, around half of all building society outstanding loans are at fixed rates.

I suspect brokers made a few phone calls to clients in the past couple of weeks, explaining what the rate rise will mean and what the options are. Trying to explain the mortgage market means walking the tightrope of giving responsible commentary while recognising there could be a negative impact.

“Into the valley of death ride young home owners,” was how one market commentator described the rate rise, which was pushing it. But we may be at the start of bumpier economic times and I for one will be keeping a close eye on MPC decisions over the next few months.

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