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Thursday, May 14, 1998 Published at 12:28 GMT 13:28 UK

Biz: Your Money: Money Reports

Mortgages made simple

Mortgages should be straightforward - you borrow money to buy a house and pay interest on the loan.

But after a few enquiries, you soon realise that it's not so simple after all.

In a hugely competitive market, building societies and banks are continually updating and extending thair range of mortgages. The list is already extensive enough to baffle all but the most determined.

Before attempting to compare deals, make sure you understand a few basic principles. This might help in deciding which type of deal suits you best.

The most important points are how you pay back the capital you borrow and how you pay the interest on it.

Paying back the capital

You can either pay a little at a time as you go (repayment mortgage) or pay it all off at the end (Pep, endowment and pension mortgages).

  • Repayment mortgages - each monthly payment pays off a little of the capital debt. At the end of the term the mortgage is cleared.

    You may need to take out separate life assurance.

  • Endowment Mortgages use an endowment policy to provide life insurance and save funds to repay the loan at the end of the term (usually 20-25 years).

    You may have a cash lump sum in addition to the loan being repaid if the investment performs well. If it performs badly you may not have enough to cover the loan.

  • Personal Equity Plan (Pep) mortgages work on the same principle as endowments, but use a Pep as the loan repayment method.

  • Pension mortgages are similar, but work on the basis that pensions (both private and company) provide tax free cash on retirement.

    At the end of the mortgage term the loan is paid out of your tax-free lump sum.

    They are not often used as it can be risky linking pensions to other investments.

Paying the interest

You have to pay interest on any debt, and mortgages are no different. They differ only in the range of options offered.

  • Variable rates mean you pay the going rate on your loan. The mortgage rate changes every time interest rates change or, as in most cases, the overall effect of any interest rate changes is calculated once a year and payments are altered accordingly.

    Whatever kind of mortgage you start with, it is likely to change to variable rates at some point.

  • Fixed rates are what they say. The interest rate is fixed for the period agreed - often two to five years.

    These are ideal for budgeting or if you think rates might increase. You do not benefit if rates fall, and will face penalties if you try to quit.

    Very low rates may tempt you, but they can be used to trap you into paying over the odds.

    See how long you will have to stay with the lender before you can switch without penalty.

  • Capped rates are fixed, but if rates fall you pay the lower rate.

    Such deals can be a good buy for budgeting.

  • Cashback deals are where lenders offer money back if you take out a particular product.

  • Discounted rates offer a permanent discount off the lender's variable rate.

    The rate you pay will fluctuate in line with changes in the variable rate. The discount applies over a set term.

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In this section

Investing - art or science?

Taxing questions

Biting the tax return bullet

Mortgages made simple

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