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29 November 2007

Mortgage fees double in two years


Lid-Dem MPs complained about this Halifax deal earlier this year.
Up-front fees charged by mortgage lenders have nearly doubled in the past two years, according to the financial information service Moneyfacts.
It says that the average arrangement fee for a mortgage have risen from £441 in November 2005 to £827 now.

Lenders have done this partly to recoup income which they lost when they were forced to drop excessive mortgage exit fees earlier this year.

The highest current arrangement fee, of 3.5%, is levied by the Northern Rock.

Too many borrowers still focus their initial attention on getting the best rate, without taking full consideration of the true cost of the deal

David Knight
Moneyfacts

Moneyfacts says that rising fees have increasingly complicated deals, which make it more difficult for home buyers to compare the relative cost of different mortgages.

"The increase in fees may not automatically mean that the cost of the deals has increased," said David Knight of Moneyfacts.

"What it does mean is the maze which borrowers need to navigate to get the best deal has become more complicated.

"Unfortunately too many borrowers still focus their initial attention on getting the best rate, without taking full consideration of the true cost of the deal," he added.

Tricks

Earlier this year the Halifax was accused by two Liberal Democrat MPs of trying to deceive customers into taking a deal with a very low initial interest rate but with a very high arrangement fee.

Those coming off fixed-rate deals taken out before the recent interest rate rises will be particularly hard-hit

Mintel

The mortgage in question charged interest of just 1.99% in the first year but carried an up-front fee of £1,999.

According to Moneyfacts, 24% of the 6,000 or so mortgages currently on offer do not have any arrangement fees at all, so there is still considerable choice.

But the trend to charge customers increasingly large sums up-front has grown as the mortgage exit arrangement fee has been largely abandoned by lenders.

Consumers had complained that lenders were imposing bigger fees for closing a mortgage when the loan was paid off - sometimes as much as £300.

The Financial Services Authority agreed that this was unfair as the higher charges had often not been agreed to by the borrowers when they first took out their loan.

Market research organisation Mintel warned that higher arrangement fees will be an extra burden for some home owners who see their current mortgage deals expire in the next year or two.

"Those coming off fixed-rate deals taken out before the recent interest rate rises will be particularly hard-hit," it warned.


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