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The Five Dumbest Mortgage Deals

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From The Times Online:

"In the booming Brown years of the recent past, we borrowed as much as we liked at low rates of interest with hardly a thought of how we would pay it all back. The trillion-pound debt mountain grew as we used our homes, our estimated salaries, even our future bonus-earning potential to ask for even more cash from the banks, who were only too happy to oblige.

The mortgage deals available in these credit-rich years demonstrate just how easy it was to borrow huge sums of money. Here are the five most outrageous mortgage deals available during the decade and a half of excess.

1) The "Together" mortgage

The notorious Together deal from Northern Rock and other deals like it, which allowed homeowners to borrow up to 125 per cent of the value of their home, have at times been blamed for the entire negative equity epidemic facing British homeowners.

The deals were a combination of a secured mortgage worth 95 per cent of the property's value and a unsecured personal loan for the final 30 per cent. The loan was at the same cheap rate as the mortgage.

Mortgage experts argue that at the end of the 1990s, 125 per cent deals made sense in certain cases. The value of homes doubled in value in the space of a decade and a 125 per cent deal quickly represented only 60 or ever 50 per cent of the property's sale price. However, thousands of homeowners have been caught out. Those who took out these loans at the peak of the housing boom, between 2004 and 2007, now have mortgages which greatly exceed the value of their homes and no other bank, including Northern Rock, will lend to them.

Northern Rock certainly wasn't the only lender who offered 125 per cent deals. Another big provider of the loans was Bradford & Bingley. In the last year both lenders have been nationalised, and 125 per cent deals have disappeared.

2) Eight to ten times your salary

In the midst of the credit boom lenders were happy to lend 8 or 10 times salary. And in some cases, this could include expected bonuses.

Morgan Stanley, the investment bank bought to its knees by toxic sub-prime mortgage-backed securities, was offering 8-times-salary deals though its Advantage brand in the UK. Meanwhile, GE Home Lending, owned by General Electric, the monolithic US enterprise, offered 10 times salary through its First National brand.

3) Foreign currency mortgages

Last year nearly 90 per cent of new loans in Hungary were in a foreign currency, mostly Euros or Swiss Francs. The exchange rate meant that these loans were much cheaper than mortgages in forints, the Hungarian currency.

However, the problem with foreign currency loans is that as your home currency declines relative to the foreign currency, the cost of making your loan payments rises considerably.

The bad news for Hungarian homeowners has been that as the economic crisis ripples across the continent, currencies have been fluctuating wildly. The Euro has soared against the Hungarian forint, reaching a peak of 286 forints last week compared to a low of 229 last July, adding vast sums to the cost of mortgage and loan repayments for ordinary Hungarians who were not warned of the hidden risks behind their low cost loans.

4) Libor mortgages

Borrowers with less than perfect credit histories, known as sub-prime, have always faced prohibitively high interest rates because lenders insist on pricing in the risk that they slip into arrears.

In recent years a number of lenders specialising in sub-prime have bumped borrowers who have come to the end of their fixed rate deals onto a variable rate that is tagged to three-month libor, an interbank money market rate which has soared in recent months as the financial crisis knocked the confidence of institutions in the City.

As Aaron Strutt, of Chase de Vere Mortgage Management, a broker, explains: "Thousands of borrowers who have been coming to the end of their mortgage deals are unwittingly reverting to a margin above libor, which could be as much as 10 per cent".

Libor has been falling in recent weeks, much to the relief of these homeowners, but it is still over a 1.3 percentage points higher than the base rate.

5) The Rover 200 mortgage

A good mortgage deal will sell itself, as lenders have found to their dismay in recent months as a pole position in the best-buy tables results in a deluge of enquires.

But a bad deal? Well, a bad deal requires something more. In the case of West Bromwich Building Society it required a free Rover 200. The deal was partly inspired by geographical logistics, as the ill-fated Longbridge plant which made the car was sited near West Brom's head office.

However, the 200 was more of a curse than a blessing for over-excited homeowners. The model was dogged by problems with reliability from the start. To matters worse, there was scarcely a profit to be made from flogging it, as heavy depreciation and a glut of cars on the second hand market made it difficult to sell on.

And the mortgage itself? Homeowners would have been better off opting for a best-buy mortgage with the most competitive rate and buying a new, more reliable car with the savings."

James Charles

And one idiotic comment: Competition?


Edited by SurgeonGeneral
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The mortgage deals available in these credit-rich years demonstrate just how easy it was to borrow huge sums of money. Here are the five most outrageous mortgage deals available during the decade and a half of excess.

Ah, beautiful memories. I remember walking through my company's large car park circa 2005 & saying to a friend, "How does everyone afford these big new cars?!".

Even at 34 years old I was surprised when she said, "Keith, they're all on tick, man".

Who's the idiot now?


Edited by keef
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