Santander and Nationwide introduce big change to mortgage rules as borrowers warned to ‘act promptly’

SANTANDER and Nationwide have made a big change to their mortgage rules.

It means homeowners coming off fixed mortgage deals will now need to act with more urgency.

Nationwide and Santander have now reduced their transfer windows and reversed their rules, citing "mortgage price stability"

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Nationwide and Santander have now reduced their transfer windows and reversed their rules, citing “mortgage price stability”

Both lenders have cut the amount of time that customers have to lock in a brand-new fixed deal.

This news comes as 1.5 million homeowners are expected to face sharp increases in their monthly mortgage payments when their fixed-rate deal expires.

These households will see their mortgage costs rise by approximately £1,800 a year on average, according to Wealth at Work.

Since the mortgage bills crisis, which saw typical rates shoot up from around 2% to 6%, the government established a new Mortgage Charter in July 2023 to help struggling households.

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Lenders who agreed to rules in the Charter were encouraged to raise the amount of time households were given to lock into a new fixed deal to six months.

This was to ensure households had the flexibility to choose a new deal ahead of time and before rates were predicted to shoot up even further.

However, this rule wasn’t compulsory.

Nationwide and Santander have now reduced their transfer windows and reversed their rules, citing “mortgage price stability.”

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Since May, Nationwide customers have only been able to lock in a new deal four months before their current deal expires – down from six months.

A Nationwide spokesperson said: “With mortgage pricing more stable and below the peaks seen last summer, customer behaviour has changed, and the proportion of product reservations five or six months in advance of maturity has dropped significantly.

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“This still offers customers the flexibility to reserve their new rate well in advance, and re-reserve if a lower rate becomes available.”

Santander has also decreased the time that households remortgaging can lock in on a fixed deal from six to four months.

A Santander spokesperson said: “Given the relative stabilising of the mortgage market, there has been limited demand from customers to lock in a deal five or six months before their deal is due to end.

“As such, we have taken the decision to revert back to enabling customers to switch up to four months before their current deal ends, in line with other major lenders.”

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?

Nicholas Mendes​​​​, mortgage technical manager at broker John Charcol, said: “Lenders who allow you to review and fix terms further in advance provide more security than those who don’t.”

Locking in to a new fix deal six months ahead gives homeowners plenty of time to do their research, find the right deal, and plan a budget.

Nicholas added: “Starting early helps you avoid any last-minute rush and potential gaps in your mortgage coverage.

“It also puts you in the best position to change the mortgage terms should rates reduce between your application and the end of your fixed deal.”

However, if you’re a Nationwide or Santander customer who’s six months away from remortgaging, you’ll now have to wait another two months before you can lock in a deal with your existing provider.

If you’re looking to lock in a new rate six months in advance, you’ll need to get a quote from another lender.

However, if your mortgage is due to expire in less than four months, the recent changes won’t make your situation any worse or better and you’ll be able to lock in a new deal from this point on.

WHAT ABOUT OTHER LENDERS?

Each lender has the authority to decide how early a customer coming off a fixed deal can lock in a new price.

Most of the biggest lenders still allow existing customers to lock into a new fixed deal at least six months in advance.

This includes:

  • Barclays
  • Halifax
  • HSBC
  • Lloys
  • NatWest
  • Virgin Money

TSB has only ever allowed existing mortgage holders to lock into a new fix three months ahead of their current deal expiring.

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Accord mortgage holders can also only sign up for a new deal three months ahead of time.

Customers with an Aldermore mortgage can lock into a new deal four months ahead of their current fix expiring.

How to get the best deal on your mortgage

IF you’re looking for a traditional type of mortgage, getting the best rates depends entirely on what’s available at any given time.

There are several ways to land the best deal.

Usually the larger the deposit you have the lower the rate you can get.

If you’re remortgaging and your loan-to-value ratio (LTV) has changed, you’ll get access to better rates than before.

Your LTV will go down if your outstanding mortgage is lower and/or your home’s value is higher.

A change to your credit score or a better salary could also help you access better rates.

And if you’re nearing the end of a fixed deal soon it’s worth looking for new deals now.

You can lock in current deals sometimes up to six months before your current deal ends.

Leaving a fixed deal early will usually come with an early exit fee, so you want to avoid this extra cost.

But depending on the cost and how much you could save by switching versus sticking, it could be worth paying to leave the deal – but compare the costs first.

To find the best deal use a mortgage comparison tool to see what’s available.

You can also go to a mortgage broker who can compare a much larger range of deals for you.

Some will charge an extra fee but there are plenty who give advice for free and get paid only on commission from the lender.

You’ll also need to factor in fees for the mortgage, though some have no fees at all.

You can add the fee – sometimes more than £1,000 – to the cost of the mortgage, but be aware that means you’ll pay interest on it and so will cost more in the long term.

You can use a mortgage calculator to see how much you could borrow.

Remember you’ll have to pass the lender’s strict eligibility criteria too, which will include affordability checks and looking at your credit file.

You may also need to provide documents such as utility bills, proof of benefits, your last three month’s payslips, passports and bank statements.

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