The recent raft of Bank of England interest rate hikes and subsequent mortgage rate increases came as no real surprise. Quite the opposite, as it had been common knowledge for some time that the historic lows the UK had become used to were on borrowed time.
Today, we are looking at a picture where millions of mortgage payers have found themselves struggling to make ends meet. Having signed up for ultra-low-interest fixed-rate deals some time ago, they have now been switched to standard variable-rate products with much higher rates of interest.
Elsewhere, you have those who are struggling to qualify for new mortgage loans in the first place, something that is not just affecting everyday home buyers but is also having a major impact on the property purchase decisions of BTL investors.
Meeting ICR requirements
Increasingly, BTL investors are finding it difficult to meet the interest cover ratio (ICR) set by major lenders as a key aspect of their eligibility requirements. This is where the interest payments on a buy-to-let mortgage are compared with projected rental income.
Typically, BTL lenders have a minimum ICR requirement of around 145%. Unfortunately, this means that the recent interest rate hikes (and the prospect of further hikes to come) mean that BTL investors must now produce evidence of higher projected rental income on the properties they plan to purchase.
Something that inherently means hiking monthly rents and potentially making their properties less attractive to prospective tenants could also be completely out of the question in some scenarios, such as a property with a reliable long-term tenant already in place that you would like to hang onto.
Bridging the gap
Over the past couple of years, investors looking to pick up BTL homes with high potential have been demonstrating greater interest than ever before in bridging finance. Bridging loans work in an entirely different way from conventional mortgages, in that they are strictly short-term solutions.
A bridging loan is a secured loan issued over a term of up to 12 months and, in many instances, can be arranged within a few working days. The loan is secured against assets of value (usually residential or commercial property), and the funds raised can be used for any legal purpose.
All of this has made bridging finance particularly attractive to investors in search of more flexible and accessible options than conventional BTL mortgages. With a bridging loan, there are no minimum ICR requirements whatsoever, and you do not need to provide any evidence of a background in property investments.
If you have sufficient assets of value to cover the costs of the loan and a workable exit strategy (how the loan will be repaid), this is often all that matters to bridging loan specialists.
This can help BTL property investors bridge the gaps in the services being provided by mainstream lenders. With a bridging loan, a buyer can purchase a high-potential BTL property in any condition and conduct the renovations and improvements necessary to bring it up to scratch. Interest then accrues at a rate as low as 0.5% per month, giving the investor plenty of time to work out their next step.
When the agreed loan term ends, the bridging loan can be refinanced onto a longer-term facility, such as a BTL mortgage. Or if rates are still far from agreeable, the property can be sold to generate significant capital gains and repay the loan in full.
Essentially, bridging finance is about giving investors welcome breathing space, during which they can think carefully about their longer-term decisions.