Renting now cheaper than first-time mortgages, says Zoopla

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By Daniel Thomas
Business reporter, BBC News

The rise in mortgage rates means it is now cheaper to rent a home than to buy one for the first time since 2010, according to Zoopla.

The property website said the average UK rent is £1,163 per month, while average mortgage repayments are £1,285 for first-time buyers on a 15% deposit.

Zoopla said London and the South East are the worst affected locations for higher mortgage costs versus rent.

But it is still cheaper to buy in areas like northern England and Scotland.

The average two-year fixed-rate mortgage is now 6.76%, according to Moneyfacts, the financial information service. For a five-year fixed deal, it is 6.24%.

Rates for both two- and five-year fixed mortgages were below 3% in early 2021.

Richard Donnell, head of insights at Zoopla, told the BBC that for the last decade it had been “much cheaper to buy than rent” due to “ultra cheap mortgage rates”.

But that trend had been reversed, he said, even though rents have also been rising quickly.

“Around the country the picture varies as in areas with lower house prices buying is still cheaper than renting,” Mr Donnell added. “In southern England where prices are higher, access to home ownership is most out of reach and rents are high as well.”

On average, monthly rent is £122 cheaper than a monthly mortgage repayment.

Zoopla based its calculation on the average value of a UK home of £263,000 where a first-time buyer had put down a 15% deposit of £39,500. It then calculated what the average monthly mortgage payment is compared to the average rental cost.

The difference was most pronounced in London where the average house price is around £522,000. Zoopla said the average monthly rent is £493 less than the average monthly mortgage payment.

In Scotland, however, where an average home is £127,000, the average mortgage payment is £128 cheaper than the average rent.

Mortgage rates have risen as the Bank of England has lifted benchmark interest rates to tackle high inflation, which measures the rate at which prices rise.

The Bank has increased rates 14 times since December 2021, most recently from 5% to 5.25% – the highest for 15 years.

There is uncertainty about what the Bank will do in the coming months, although financial markets think rates might be close to their peak.

Mr Donnell said he expected mortgage rates to fall back and continued growth in rents would lead to buying becoming cheaper than renting again as 2023 progresses.

However, he said housing unaffordability in southern England would remain a “real problem for first-time buyers and renters”.

It came as shares in housebuilders tumbled on Monday after construction giant Crest Nicholson cut its full-year profit forecast.

Shares in the firm fell by as much as 14.9% before regaining ground to trade around 8.4% lower. Shares in Barratt, Persimmon, Redrow and Taylor Wimpey were down between 2.2% and 3.8% in early afternoon trade.

Crest Nicholson said high interest rates and stubbornly high inflation had driven homebuyers away.

Five ways to save money on your mortgage

1. Overpay now if possible

If you still have some time on a low fixed-rate deal, your mortgage could work harder for you now. Putting money in a savings account can build up and also earn interest to help to pay down some of the mortgage ahead of fixing a new deal.

2. Switch to interest-only

If you have an interest-only mortgage it means you are only paying the interest on the amount borrowed, and you are not paying down the size of the debt. But moving to an interest-only mortgage can keep your monthly payments affordable.

3. Downsize

This is possibly not a realistic option for a growing family, or for the owners of a small flat. But for older mortgage customers whose children have flown the nest, selling up and buying a smaller property could reduce the mortgage size.

There are more tips on saving money on your mortgage here

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