Rate rises increase fixed rate popularity but hit affordability


New data reveals that affordability is being squeezed as interest rates rise and property prices remain high.

Figures from the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) reveal first-time buyer income multiples are now reaching their highest ever level and stood at 3.37 times the average first-time buyer income in May - up from 3.33 times in April.

The proportion of first-timers' income used to cover mortgage interest payments rose 0.4 per cent to 19.1 per cent.

For home movers the average income multiple now stands at 3.03, while mortgage interest payments now take up some 16.6 per cent of income.

CML director general Michael Coogan said: "For anyone wanting to get a foot on the property ladder or move house, each month affordability is becoming worse.

"The record number of borrowers who are now paying stamp duty makes a difficult situation even worse, despite the financial windfall to the Treasury. This needs to be addressed urgently."

Figures from the CML reveal that in May a total of 60 per cent of first-time buyers now pay stamp duty - up from 52 per cent a year before. Some 86 per cent of house movers pay the tax.

The CML also revealed that some 89 per cent of first-time buyers and 73 per cent of movers chose a fixed rate loan in May.

Mr Coogan said that taking out short-term fixed-rate mortgages may provide some reassurance to borrowers, but when the mortgage reverts to the variable rate they face the real risk of "payment shock".

"Financial difficulties are set to rise so it is essential borrowers speak to their lender if they are having repayment difficulties to avoid becoming another arrears statistic," he said.

New chancellor of the exchequer Alistair Darling is now calling on lenders to offer longer-term fixed rate deals, as a part of the government's plan to take on the problem of affordability.

He suggested bringing in fixed rate deals of up to 25 years - compared with the current two, three of five-year norm - to reduce the volatility on the market.

Mr Darling told the Guardian: "In terms of mortgages, there has been a big expansion in fixed rate mortgages over the last two or three years, but they have all been short term, for a period of two or three years.

"When you look around the rest of Europe, it is more common to have longer-term fixed rates. We need to look at that. We need to reduce the volatility."