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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Will everyone benefit from the 0.5% cut in Base Rate?

Media and politicians focus on residential mortgages when Bank Base Rate (BBR) is cut as that is the point of maximum impact on individuals and ultimately where votes in the next general election will be won or lost.

Much media focus over the last 5 months has focused not only on how much lenders reduced their SVR but also on the date at which it will be implemented. This is monitored very effectively by the BBC on and you can see who passes on what amount and how quickly they do, or don't, apply it. You can also see our own graph below.

Many residential mortgages are on fixed rate mortgages of 2, 3 or 5 year duration. These borrowers will generally be paying mortgages between 4.75% and 6.75% and will be looking carefully at the clause that identifies what price they will pay after the initial fixed rate period. The majority will revert to the lender's standard variable rate (SVR) which is at the lender's discretion and currently varies from 3% to 5.79% (ignoring one lender with an eye watering 8.44%). Several have already stated their intent to pass on the latest rate cut in full (Nationwide, LLoyds, HBOS and Woolwich) but this will still mostly be on a margin greater than Base + 2%. Borrowers should also check that their mortgage doesn't include a "collar" that would impose a minimum interest rate - for example 3%. The most fortunate borrowers are those who have a Bank of England Base Rate (BBR) linked mortgage where the 0.5% cut is applied with immediate effect !

For the very small group of borrowers who have a mortgage headline rate with a discount of 1% or more to BBR , there is the delightful prospect of a negative interest rate. In reality this simply won't happen but there doesn't yet seem to be an industry wide solution to this conundrum. Even when this is agreed, I doubt whether most lenders computer systems will cope !!

Buy To Let borrowers mostly benefit from mortgages that are linked to BBR or LIBOR rate and will have enjoyed ever improving cashflow in recent months. We have not identified any "collar" clauses in the Buy to Let mortgage sector. Some borrowers will be on SVR with a lender and if that lender is no longer actively supplying new mortgages they may not be passing on BBR cuts in full to borrowers - 4.84% SVR doesn't seem expensive until you equate it to BBR + 3.84%. Refinancing these mortgages to other lenders can sometimes also release equity for further purchases if gearing is relatively low.

Business borrowers are invariably funded to BBR or LIBOR rate - sometimes lenders will stipulate that loans above £1M, must be funded to LIBOR to mitigate risk. A few banks will offer "dual pricing on each transaction - BBR + 2.75% or LIBOR + 2% ie the differential between the LIBOR and BBR in the money markets. For these borrowers the issue isn't so much price as the availability of credit !!

The Government will maintain its focus on BBR and cite any lender as irresponsible who doesn't match the BBR reductions regardless of the real funding cost either from wholesale funds or from retail deposits. And of course this portrays them as the consumer's champion which will be important as a general election approaches; but now that they (and us as taxpayers) have significant stakes in both RBOS and Lloyds HBOS and full ownership of Northern Rock and Bradford and Bingley, they need to be mindful of their investment in these institutions when they issue headline grabbing statements.

By clicking on the below you can see a consolidated list of lenders and any benefits they have passed on. We will be updating this as things develop.

3 month Libor v Base Rate

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