Short cuts to the best deals

Seeking a mortgage? Shop around, and use an independent adviser, says Abigail Montrose
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The Independent Online
With around 4,000 mortgage loans on offer, it can seem an impossible task to choose the best deal for your particular needs. But don't despair; help is at hand. You can go to lenders direct for help, you can speak to a mortgage broker, or you can go to an independent financial adviser (IFA) who specialises in mortgage advice.

If you speak to a mortgage lender, and there are around 100 of them, you will be given advice on which of its own products are most suitable for your particular circumstances. However, for example, it could be that a PEP mortgage is the best mortgage for you, but if the lender does not have this product it will not be able to offer it; instead it will offer you the most suitable product from its range.

Even if the lender is able to provide you with the loan and repayment vehicle you want, this may not be the package you are after. For example, you may want a fixed rate endowment mortgage. While the lender may offer this, the endowment policy may not be from the insurance company you want.

A mortgage broker will be able to offer you more choice, but, again, some brokers are tied to a particular insurance company or investment house. They may scour the market for the best loan on offer, but when it comes to finding a repayment vehicle, such as a PEP or endowment mortgage, they will offer you only one company's products.

If you want a mortgage expert to search the whole market looking for the best overall package for your needs - and this could save you thousands of pounds in the long run - you need to see an IFA who specialises in mortgage advice.

As Mike Owen, managing director of IFA Portfolio, points out: "An IFA can give you independent advice not only on the loan, but also on the repayment vehicle you should have."

Two building societies, Bradford & Bingley, and the Yorkshire, offer their customers independent financial advice on repayment vehicles. A mortgage adviser will help them to decide which type of loan is best, such as a fixed rate, a discount, or a loan with cash back. Any customer who does not want a repayment mortgage, but wants investment advice on the best way to repay the loan, will be referred to one of the societies' IFAs.

Advice is rarely free, although the way you pay for it is not always apparent. Lenders sometimes charge an arrangement fee or processing fee when you take out a mortgage. A mortgage broker or IFA may charge you a fee, but often they will forego this and, instead, take commission from the lender to whom they give your business. If you take out an investment to repay the loan, the adviser may also receive commission from the investment company.

For details of mortgage brokers in your area, look in the Yellow Pages. If you want to speak to an independent financial adviser, call IFA Promotion on 0117-971 1177; it will give you details of three IFAs in your area, but you need to check whether they specialise in mortgage business.

IFA Portfolio, the marketing arm of the trade body IFA association, has set up a freephone service for people looking for an independent adviser specialising in mortgages. Call 0800-174 224 with your details, and an adviser will contact youn

The best rates available

Variable Rate Mortgages

Name Number Rate Available Max LTV Fee Incentive

FirstMortgage 0800 080088 6.20% indefinite 90% pounds 295 pounds 295 fee refund

B'ford & Bingley Direct 0345 852852 6.24% indefinite 75% - pounds 250 rebate; 6 months free ASU cover

Woolwich Direct 0645 757575 6.30% indefinite 60% - pounds 450 cash rebate

Direct Line 0181 649 9099 6.31% indefinite 90% - No MIP; valuation refund; free legal work

Legal & Gen 0800 664444 6.49% indefinite 95% - pounds 400 legal costs; free valuation

Fixed Rate Mortgages

Name Number Rate Available Max LTV Fee

Coventry 0800 126125 4.90% to 30.6.99 85% 250

Lambeth 0800 225221 5.14% to 1.5.99 95% 295

FirstMortgage 0800 080088 6.35% to 1.4.00 90% 295

Leeds & Holbeck 0500 225777 7.15% to 1.7.02 75% 495

Low-Start Mortgages

Name Number Rate Available Max LTV Fee Incentive

Scarborough 0800 590547 0.75% for 1 year 80% 250

Hinckley & Rugby 0800 774499 4.15% for 2 years 80% 250 No MIP; free valuation; pounds 250 fee refund

Greenwich 0181 858 8212 4.19% for 2 years 90%

Mercantile 0191 295 9500 4.74% for 3 years 75% pounds 195

West Bromwich 0121 525 7070 5.25% for 3 years 75% 1% rebate (max pounds 500); 1 yrs free ASU

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