The Basics Of Taking Out A UK Mortgage

A row of terraced houses in England

Just over 11 million people have a mortgage in the UK. According to the FCA, the value of outstanding mortgages reached a value of £1,430 billion in the third quarter of 2018 . In this article we examine:

  • How mortgages work
  • How much you can borrow with a mortgage
  • How much deposit you need for a mortgage

How does a mortgage work?

A mortgage is basically a loan given to buy property and for the vast majority of Britons, it is their largest outstanding debt. A mortgage is classed as a secured loan in that the sum borrowed is held against the home. Therefore, if the mortgage holders default on their mortgage repayments, they run the risk of having their property repossessed.

A mortgage is a secured loan as the sum borrowed is held against the home

The standard length of a mortgage is 25 years although other terms are possible, and 30-year mortgages are becoming more common. At the beginning of the mortgage, the majority of the monthly repayment to the lender goes towards interest and a part towards paying off the capital. As the capital is whittled down, less interest is charged and more of the original loan is paid back.

How much can I borrow with a mortgage?

Until changes by the FCA in 2014 about how mortgage applications were processed, the amount someone could borrow was as a multiple of their salary. However, nowadays, lenders such as banks and building societies take other factors into account. Although the borrower’s income is assessed, lenders’ primary concern is the affordability of the mortgage. For this reason, they take into consideration factors such as a borrower’s other expenses, the level of their outstanding debts and also carry out a full credit check.

UK houses with colourful doors

As part of the application process, they conduct a stress test to check whether mortgage repayments would still be affordable if there were changes to the lender’s interest rates or a change in the borrower’s personal circumstances like a redundancy or birth of a baby.

Nowadays most mortgage providers would expect you to have saved a minimum of 5% of the property purchase price.

To help you decide how much you can borrow, many lenders have mortgage affordability calculators on their sites. You should also consider the additional expenses of owning your own home such as insurance, maintenance and Council Tax.

How much deposit do I need for a mortgage?

Although 100% mortgages used to be more common before the global crisis, nowadays most mortgage providers would expect you to have saved a minimum of 5% of the property purchase price. These 95% mortgages aren’t offered by all lenders so you’ll find the lending market quite restricted. Another drawback of such a small deposit is that you will find that the interest rates are quite high.

This is because the higher your financial contribution to the purchase price, the less of a risk you represent to the lender. You should, therefore, aim to have at least a 10% deposit with better mortgage deals only available for those who have deposits of 20% or more. When you’re saving up for a house deposit, you should also allow for the extra expenditure of buying a home such as arrangement fees, legal fees, removal fees and so on.

About the author

Thomas Henderson

Thomas worked as a consultant in personal finance in the UK for 18 years. He has found a passion in sharing his experience on

Thomas also takes pleasure in woodworking, reading and observing stock market trends.

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