Page last updated at 13:42 GMT, Tuesday, 24 April 2007 14:42 UK

Q&A: Moving your mortgage

Twenty pounds
Mortgage fees have rising sharply in recent years
Thousands of people switch mortgage provider each year, some to save money, others as a means to borrow more cash.

What factors should you bear in mind when switching mortgage providers.

Can remortgaging really save money?

It depends.

It is estimated that more than half of all borrowers are continuing to pay over the odds for their mortgage each month.

Usually these people are paying the lender's standard variable mortgage rate. There will be lower rates available from other providers.

But this is not the whole story.

In recent years, banks and building societies have been hiking mortgage fees to subsidise attractive headline interest rates.

So called mortgage arrangement fees have sky-rocketed as have charges for redeeming a mortgage.

As a result, you have to do the sums to make sure that what you gain through switching provider - a lower rate of interest - is not lost through higher charges.

That sounds very complex, what help is available?

There are financial professionals who can advise you. Some of these are employed by lenders and may only be able to recommend the products of one mortgage provider or a small panel of providers.

A financial adviser may not be the best route to a future mortgage deal.

But there are a host of independent mortgage brokers who are free to advise you from the whole of the mortgage market.

However, be aware that they may take commission from the provider they recommend to you.

You may also have to pay a fee for independent mortgage advice.

It is also wise to do your own research to compare the rates that a lender or broker is offering you.

If I want to do it myself, where do I start?

The first step is to check the terms and conditions of your existing mortgage.

These will tell if you are tied-in to your mortgage deal or if there are any redemption penalties - sometimes phrased as early repayment charges.

If you are locked-in, you must decide if it is worth switching to a different rate or stay put until the penalties have expired.

You may have been with your existing lender for a long time and feel a sense of loyalty towards the company.

However, most lenders do not reward this loyalty with a reduction in rates.

You should therefore expect to shop around and look towards a different lender to get a better deal.

My neighbours have told me that you can borrow more money through remortgaging, is this right?

Yes. Remortgaging is not only about saving money.

As well as reducing your monthly payments, you can also use remortgaging as a way of releasing some equity that has built-up in your property's value.

If you are tempted to release equity, it is still important to be cautious.

Borrowing through your mortgage may be much cheaper than taking out a personal loan, but the debt is secured.

This means that if you can not keep up with additional payments, you could risk losing your home.

Which deal is best for me?

You will face a choice of broadly four types of deal: fixed, capped, discounted and flexible.

Fixed-rate mortgages are ideal for people who want certainty and must be able to regulate how much they will be spending each month.

The rate is usually fixed for between two and five years.

In a hugely competitive market, building societies and banks are continually updating and extending their range of mortgages

Discounted loans offer a reduction off the standard variable rate for a set period.

If rates fall further, the rate that you will pay will also go down.

However, when rates rise, so will your mortgage payments.

A capped-rate loan will set a limit on the rate you will pay.

If rates rise, your payments will not go above that level. However, if rates fall below the cap so will your repayments.

Flexible mortgages allow you to overpay and underpay when you choose and without penalty.

This is ideal for people who have fluctuating incomes or who want to clear their mortgage early.

An increasing number of fixed, capped and discounted deals have more flexible features as well.

What should I avoid?

Avoid deals with extended redemption penalties.

While these had been phased out in recent years, a number of lenders have reintroduced extended penalties to clamp down on so-called 'rate tarts' who move around frequently to get the best deal.

Extended redemption penalties are often hidden in the small print of a mortgage contract and are sometimes called early repayment penalties or charges.

Before you agree to a mortgage you should be presented with a key facts document. This should outline all the mortgage charges and small print in plain English.

Always read the key facts document thoroughly and if you are unsure of any clauses take advice.

Someone filling in a mortgage application form
Remortgaging is easier than ever

How do I apply?

Obtain a 'redemption statement' from your existing lender.

This will tell you how much you owe.

You must then complete an application form from your new lender, along with details about your income such as bank statements, payslips, a P60 form, mortgage statements and proof of identity.

Your new lender will value your home. This will cost between 200 and 300.

Most lenders will also charge an arrangement fee which can be anything from 200 up to over 1,000.

Some lenders offer dedicated remortgaging services with free legal work and valuations but others will charge for this service.

All in all it can take anything from a few hundred pounds to a few thousand to shift provider.

The golden rule is that the benefits of switching provider must outweigh any charges that are incurred.

How long does it take?

It should take about a month to complete the process.

You will get a mortgage offer of advance, if the lender's surveyor is satisfied with the value and condition of your home.

You new lender will liaise with your existing company.

Once you have received a completion statement from your solicitor or new lender, the process has finished.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by the BBC unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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