Cheap Loans, not Many Takers

By: Luke Ashworth

Loans have never been so cheap and as the base rate has risen, typical loan rates have fallen. This means that the profit margins are narrower then ever for the loan providers and consumers are getting a very good deal that needs to be taken advantage of.

However, borrowers are a little slow on the uptake. Current account rates have improved steeply in a relatively short period indicating that providers have to work harder to attract new current account customers putting consumers in a very powerful position. The base rate now stands at 5.5 per cent with the best loan rate available at 5.9 per cent - a difference of 0.4 per cent. Just four years ago in March 2003, the base rate was 3.75 per cent, but the best loan rate was 6.7 per cent, a difference of 2.95 per cent or seven times greater. Recent reports indicate that many current accounts and loan products on the market are offering good value to consumers by abandoning the current base rate and offering attractive deals.

Similarly, many current accounts are offering rates that are considerably lower than the present base rate, following recent interest rate increases since the end of last year. Meaning the rapid growth of the secured loans market has now encouraged increased competition. But even as loans are cheaper and easier for borrowers to obtain than ever before, the UK housing market growth slowed in March. This was due to the impact of the Bank of England's interest rate tightening cycle.

The Department for Communities and Local Government said annual house prices were up 10.9 per cent in March, lower than February's 11.8 per cent rise. The March figures missed predictions of a 12 per cent increase as the average house price in the UK rose to ?206,890 in March, from a revised ?204,556 in February. With speculation that the base rate could be set to increase further in 2007, customers could also benefit from further improved margins in the coming months.

Average credit interest rates on current accounts have increased by 0.29 per cent since October 2006 meaning it could be a very good time to consider a loan, such as a homeowner loans or debt consolidation loan. But an EU-wide lending could emerge in the near future, which would see loan providers able to operate across the 27 member states and make it easier for consumers to secure loans in another country. This could mean buyers could be tempted into buying a property abroad due to easy finance and cheaper prices as after four interest rate rises in the last year, fewer people are taking out mortgages in the UK as cheap deals are drying up.

Recent figures from the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) revealed that gross mortgage lending fell a total of nine per cent from March to April, with figures from the Building Societies Association (BSA) revealing mortgage approvals dropped eight per cent compared with the same month last year. This indicates that borrowers are now responding to the effect of a one per cent base rate rise. At the start of January, the mortgage market was anticipating two or three base rate rises indicating that the month on month slowdown could also be an effect of borrowers bringing their purchasing decisions forward in the first quarter of this year.

While lending is still strong, it does seem to be stabilising in 2007 following its major growth in 2006. However, with the cost of homes constantly rising it's inevitable that lending will also rise and now is a good time to take advantage of the cheap deals that are available thanks to the narrow profit margins.

Debt, Loans & Business Cashflow
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