The Financial Services Authority (FSA) have today released mortgage reform proposals which are designed to regulate mortgage lenders and help prevent a repeat of the house price bubble that burst at the end of 2007. The approach they have set out is to prevent “reckless” lending to borrowers who can’t afford to repay the loan, which leads to foreclosures and repossessions and ultimately declines in the housing market.

The proposals seem to be designed to protect the borrower, by making it the responsibility of lenders and mortgage advisers to check that the mortgage is indeed affordable. There are proposals to prevent lenders charging the borrower for being in arrears, as long as the borrower is trying to reduce those arrears. However, as the BBC are reporting, there are fears that these measures would make it even harder for people to get a mortgage as lenders (who are already limiting the mortgage options available and the ease with which they can be taken) will insist of tough checks to make sure that the applicants really can afford the repayments.

Some commentators think that this might hurt the housing market, which currently needs all the help it can get, because it will mean fewer people buying houses. However, we should bear in mind that at this stage they are only proposals by the FSA, they may be modified or relaxed before they are introduced, and they are unlikely to take effect for 12 months or more. We may find, therefore, that a number of borrowers will try to take mortgages out before the new rules come in and lenders may be tempted to take advantage of this crowd by offering more and better deals. It’s not all bad news for those looking for a new mortgage, and we may see that this helps (in the short term) both house prices and the mortgage market. Long term, the reason behind the proposals is to make house prices and the market in general more stable, instead of the boom and bust that we have seen in recent years. This will mean house prices are unlikely to increase at the rate they did in the mid-2000s, but should manage a steady climb that is more reassuring for borrowers and lenders alike.

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Mortgages

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