Homeowners £80 a month worse off since last summer

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The Independent Online

Homeowners with a typical £100,000 mortgage will have to pay £80 more on monthly repayments than they did last summer as a result of today's interest rate hike.

The Bank of England's move will - if lenders pass on the full burden - add around £16 a month to the bill of a family with an average size home loan.

When added to the cost to borrowers of the previous four interest rate hikes - in August, November and January and May - it means mortgage repayments on a £100,000 loan will have gone up by £80.12 a month to £755.32.

Those more heavily in debt, with a £200,000 mortgage, are likely to see monthly repayments increase by around £33 as a result of today's decision - taking the annual increase up to £160.

Citizens Advice said the latest move on rates could spell "disaster" for families already struggling to keep financially afloat.

The charity's network of bureaux has already witnessed a surge in people seeking help over mortgage arrears in recent months.

Higher interest rates come at a time when many households are already suffering the effect of rises in both council tax and household bills.

Peter Tutton, social policy officer at Citizens Advice, said the additional cost of a further rate rise would hit some homeowners hard.

He said: "Current research we are doing shows there are more people going into local bureaux who are falling behind with mortgage payments and in some cases are threatened with repossession, and we know some people are taking on mortgages that stretch them to the absolute limit.

"A rise in mortgage interest rates could spell disaster for people whose finances are balanced on the very edge of affordability."

Adam Sampson, chief executive at homelessness charity Shelter, said: " With people already overstretching themselves just to get on the housing ladder, this rate rise will push many over their financial limit, leaving them facing mortgage arrears, repossession and even homelessness.

"And for many ordinary families, soaring house prices, combined with interest rate rises means home ownership is becoming increasingly out of reach."

Lenders have yet to report a major upswing in mortgage arrears levels, although the strain on household finances is shown in other areas such as credit card lending, where firms have written off billions in bad debt.

In May, it was reported that this year could go down as the worst ever year for Britain's "debt crisis".

In all, 30,075 people went bankrupt or took out an Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA) between January and March - representing more than 330 personal insolvencies for every day of winter.

It reaffirmed predictions that 2007 will be the worst ever year for personal insolvencies in England and Wales, surpassing last year's record total of 107,288.

As well as impacting those on variable rates, higher interest rates will also hit the many people coming towards the end of their fixed rate deals.

And first-time buyers looking to get on the property ladder will face the double whammy of higher house prices and steeper repayment terms.

Higher rates mean that if homebuyers want to seek protection against the unpredictability of interest rates they will have to pay a higher premium.

Over the last year, "best buy" fixed-rate mortgages have followed the base rate upwards. The cheapest one currently on the market is a two-year deal at 5.35 per cent, according to mortgage brokers London & amp; Country.

In July last year, a homebuyer could get a similar mortgage with an interest rate of 4.69 per cent.

And in order to get one of the leading fixed rates today, homeowners will also have to part with an arrangement fee in the region of £1,000, far higher than a year ago.

But there are still some half-decent rates out there, according to David Hollingworth, spokesman for London & Country.

He said: "Fixed rates are not as cheap as they were, but if you are coming to the end of a deal now and want to protect yourself against interest rates there are some good rates."

He added: "People should be driven more by what they want a mortgage to do. If you want protection, then a fixed rate is definitely right.

"Those open to fluctuation and think they would be OK if rates go up again may prefer to go for a tracker."

The best tracker on the market offers a discount on the base rate of 51 basis points, given a current rate of 5.24 per cent.

But opting for a tracker mortgage leaves homeowners vulnerable to future rises. It would only take one more hikes, and repayments would be higher than for the best fixed rates on the market.

And with some economists now believing the base rate could hit 6 per cent, many homeowners may not want to take that risk.