The threshold of a new era

Mortgages: sanity is returning to the property market. Here and on page 14 we look at the burgeoning ranks of competitive loan deals

Although the Financial Services Authority has decided against conducting an industry-wide inquiry on endowments mis-selling, there are still many householders who are worried about whether or not their policy will meet projections.

Although the Financial Services Authority has decided against conducting an industry-wide inquiry on endowments mis-selling, there are still many householders who are worried about whether or not their policy will meet projections.

This fear underlines the importance of finding a suitable mortgage. Buying a house is arguably the most expensive purchase we will ever make, so it is important to get the right loan. We want a good deal, but we also want to make sure we can afford to pay it back.

While endowments and interest-only mortgages become increasingly shunned by home buyers, the good news is that there is a huge number of competitive repayment loans on the market.

The choice can be bewildering, but as long as you take a few basic principles into account - such as how much you can afford and whether you want the added security of fixed rates or are prepared to gamble a little on a discount - the process should not be too onerous.

On this page we address the problems faced by first-time buyers. Buying your first home is daunting because you simply haven't experienced it before. We guide you through the process and look at the best deals available.

The dawn of the flexible mortgage heralds a shift in lenders' and borrowers' attitudes. On the next page, we look at this growing market, generated by demand for better rates of interest, no redemption penalties, more frequent interest calculations and the ability to choose how much we pay each month.

The Halifax reveals that although house prices are not falling, they have slowed down, particularly in the South. This is good news for buyers.

The trend is expected to continue in the coming months. With the market becoming more sensible, now could be a good time to find that dream home.

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