The so-called mortgage prisoner is on the rise in the UK. This is the term given to someone who is trapped in their current mortgage and property and does not have the means or the opportunity to move elsewhere. This could refer to moving to a better mortgage deal or to downsizing to a cheaper property.
According to recent figures, some 20% of households are currently struggling to pay their regular mortgage payments. This is the figure in a climate that is still enjoying incredibly low interest rates. When these rise – as they will, and probably sooner than many of us would like to admit – they risk putting many more households into the struggling category. Furthermore the 20% or so that are struggling now may be pushed over the edge.
Characteristics of the mortgage prisoner
One of the more worrying aspects of mortgage prisoners is that some do not even realise they are in this bracket until they attempt to make changes to their mortgage. For example re-mortgaging is now more difficult owing to the changes in the marketplace and the new stricter rules that have come into force. Many who might like to re-mortgage to get a better and cheaper deal may not be able to do so.
You may also be imprisoned if you have little to no equity in your property. While house prices are rising they may not be rising fast enough for those living outside of the London and South East. This can lead to fewer options for re-mortgaging if you are looking to do this or alternatively move elsewhere.
Rising interest rates mean increasing mortgage payments
For those who are stuck with their current mortgage it can be demoralising to see interest rates on their mortgage begin to rise. Those who are in this group –or will be once interest rates do begin to increase – may be able to ride out the storm if they are able to pare back their outgoings or increase their income to meet the difference in payments.
However this isn’t easy – the cost of living is rising and while the job market is steadier now than it was in recent years many people still do not have the hours or the job security they need to be able to do this.
Some 770,000 households at risk of defaulting on their loans
This is the figure revealed by the Resolution Foundation – a figure that will be severely tested in the coming years as interest rates start to rise. These are the households that will find it hardest of all to switch to better mortgages, as well as paying out the largest percentage of their income each month on repayments.
Clearly the UK mortgage market is heading for a rough period. Even though interest rates are still stable at present, we all recognise this will not last forever. When they do start to rise, some households will find it more challenging than others to manage the fallout.