Rate rise brings B2L opportunities

The recent rise in the base rate to 4.75% wrong-footed pundits in the financial sector. And it must have come as a disappointment to those who had bet their money on the autumn for a rise in rates.

But the response from the industry has been positive. The National Association of Estate Agents said on the day that it felt the property market could absorb the 0.25% rise and Halifax believes that although house price rises have been slowing we will continue to see strong demand in the rest of 2006. Abbey sees the rise as an adjustment rather than the start of an era of rising rates.

So the increase will not affect the stability of the housing market. It seems new instruction volumes received by estate agents remain at a good level. But estate agents have reported a slowdown in first-time buyer transactions and there could be a further downward move following the rate rise.

On the other hand, letting agents are seeing more demand and shorter void periods, maintaining the confidence of landlords in the letting of their properties.

So what are the mortgage prospects for the buy-to-let market over the coming months? There will be continued demand for new purchases so we will be maintaining a competitive range of buy-to-let products. We also have an eye on the remortgage market. Over the past few years many lenders have built and funded their portfolios with short-term discounted or fixed rate products.

Landlords coming off shorter term products and subjected to the increased costs of standard variable rates will want to compare the monthly payments with the sub-5% rates available for both fixed and discounted products. The difference is massive.

For example, take a loan subject to SVR at 1.75% of, say, 120,000. A landlord could expect monthly payments of 650, whereas there are rates available at about 4.84% with which monthly payments would be 484. That has a better ring to it.

A landlord may be put off by the costs of transferring the loan but that’s where a broker can help. Unlike a home owner, a landlord owner can set much of these costs off against tax. And fee-assisted products will be attractive too.

So the rise in the base rate presents opportunities for brokers who write buy-to-let business and for the buy-to-let industry as a whole.