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New Year mortgage price war breaks out: High Street lenders kick off 2024 by slashing fixed rates by nearly 1% with homeowners set to save more than £100 a month

Britain’s homeowners whose fixed rate mortgages are set to end soon will save thousands of pounds this year as a price war among lenders was reignited.

Halifax became the first company to slash rates on its remortgage deals by up to 0.83 percentage points yesterday, just hours into the first working day of the year.

The cut by the UK’s largest lender applied to two-year, five-year and ten-year fixed-rate deals and is equivalent to a £145 a month reduction for those on a £300,000 loan with 25 years of repayment left and a 40 per cent stake in their home.

Halifax also cut rates for existing borrowers who refinance with the bank by up to 0.92 percentage points – and experts said the dramatic rate cuts could trigger a fresh wave of reductions from rival lenders as they battle to attract new customers.

The average two-year deal is now 5.92 per cent with five-year fixes at 5.53 per cent, according to Moneyfactscompare – after Leeds Building Society and Generation Home also yesterday made cuts of up to 1 and 0.67 percentage points respectively.

It comes as interest rates are expected to plunge this year, according to bets on financial markets. The Bank of England is set to cut rates six times in 2024, taking them from a 15-year high of 5.25 per cent today to 3.75 per cent by Christmas.

The current UK mortgage best buys, according to Moneyfacts compare and L&C Mortgage

Ranald Mitchell, director at Charwin Private Clients mortgage broker in Norwich, said: ‘An unprecedented rate war is well under way and 2024 will see some seismic moves in rates compared to 2023.

‘With net mortgage lending predicted to be lower than last year, mortgage providers will be pulling out all the stops, not just to acquire new business, but also to protect their existing mortgage customer base.’

And Graham Cox, founder of Self Employed Mortgage Hub in Bristol, said: ‘Halifax lowering rates by up to 0.92 per cent is a reflection that they were far from being the cheapest at the end of last year.

‘With the decks cleared, they’re ready to take on new cases and get some early sales in, so have slashed rates. Other lenders will follow soon no doubt – competition in this slow market is fierce.’

Britain¿s largest lender Halifax has slashed rates on its remortgage deals by up to 0.83 points

Britain’s largest lender Halifax has slashed rates on its remortgage deals by up to 0.83 points

The Bank of England is set to cut rates six times in 2024, according to bets on financial markets

The Bank of England is set to cut rates six times in 2024, according to bets on financial markets

Meanwhile Elliott Culley, a broker at Switch Mortgage Finance in Fareham, Hampshire, said: ‘2024 is set to start with a bang. Once one lender reduces it will signal to others to follow, so expect rates to start tumbling soon.’

What the experts say on Halifax’s new mortgage deals and 2024 rates

  • Imran Hussain, director at Harmony Financial Services: ‘Though this is a positive move, why could they not have done this in December as many borrowers will have now gone onto deals on the 1st of January and could have benefited from savings?’
  • Justin Moy, managing director at EHF Mortgages: ‘It’s good to see the Halifax improve many of its rates across its remortgage and product transfer ranges. However, this feels like a quick catch-up to be in the middle of the pack. Other lenders have already launched cheaper products, and it will be interesting to see if Halifax will reprice further in the next week or so.’
  • Imogen Sporle, head of property at Finanze: ‘As we suspected, the New Year will bring new opportunities and a new impetus for lenders to take a lead in stimulating business. Regardless of the economic forecasts, lenders need to move money and the only way to do that is to offer competitive rates. It’s good to see this happening so soon and we’ve already seen borrowers lining up their plans for the year ahead.’
  • Ranald Mitchell, director at Charwin Private Clients: ‘An unprecedented rate war is well under way and 2024 will see some seismic moves in rates compared to 2023. With Net mortgage lending predicted to be lower than last year, mortgage providers will be pulling out all the stops, not just to acquire new business, but also to protect their existing mortgage customer base.’
  • Simon Bridgland, broker and director at Release Freedom: ‘Great to see lenders coming out swinging. I look forward to the details being updated on the intermediary website. Hopefully, these great reductions have made their way up to the higher end of the loan to value spectrum. I’m sure this will be the start to a manic week.’
  • Mike Staton, director at Staton Mortgages: ‘This was always on the cards. Halifax’s massive reductions reflect their extremely high rates at the end of 2023. These reductions still do not make Halifax the cheapest lender on the market by some distance. Also, it does feel like a kick in the nether regions to those borrowers who fixed their mortgages recently with Halifax at much higher rates. These falling rates tell me my decision to switch my own mortgage to a tracker with no ERC was the right thing to do. This rate decrease indicates to me that we will see a lot of people pay their ERC this year to come out of the +6 per cent rate they fixed earlier in the year. The banks are onto a massive winner with this.’
  • James Bull, mortgage broker at JB Mortgages: ‘It is fantastic to see lower rates finally coming out and let’s hope this kickstarts the flagging housing market as we bed into 2024.’
  • Graham Cox, founder at Self Employed Mortgage Hub: ‘Halifax lowering rates by up to 0.92 per cent is a reflection that they were far from being the cheapest at the end of last year. With the decks cleared, they’re ready to take on new cases and get some early sales in, so have slashed rates. Other lenders will follow soon no doubt; competition in this slow market is fierce.’
  • Rohit Kohli, operations director at The Mortgage Stop: ‘Several lenders including Halifax were overpriced as the year ended compared to other deals in the market, probably because they did not want a busy end to the year. It’s great to see the predicted reductions kick in so early in the new year but I think this is just the Halifax playing catchup with other lenders. We’ll be watching what happens in the lead-up to the next inflation figures in a couple of weeks and the news on Christmas retail sales as this will likely drive lender decisions as they will provide a better indicator on any potential Bank of England rate decision in February.’

A likely drop in interest rates this year would be a major boost for borrowers needing to remortgage and first-time buyers getting onto the housing ladder.

Rachel Springall, finance expert at Moneyfactscompare, told MailOnline: ‘Mortgage rates are on the downward trend, so it’s a positive start to 2024 for borrowers.

‘Lenders may well be looking to make some notable cuts in the weeks to come, to entice new customers, particularly as swap rates are down compared to this time last month.’

She added: ‘There are big expectations for mortgage rates to fall in the coming weeks and any vigorous repricing can provide better deals for borrowers desperate to refinance. Seeking advice to go over the true cost package of any deal is vital so that consumers are not swayed by just the headline grabbing rates.’

However, it has also been pointed out that mortgage rates will still be far higher than they were before interest rates started rising at the end of 2021.

And analysts warned rates may not fall as far as investors betting on the financial markets expect.

The Bank raised rates 14 times in less than two years, taking them from a record low of just 0.1 per cent to 5.25 per cent, as it battled to bring inflation back under control.

That pushed up the cost of mortgages and other loans – squeezing households and businesses and denting economic growth.

But inflation has fallen from a peak of 11.1 per cent in October 2022 to 3.9 per cent – though this is still almost double the 2 per cent target.

Rohit Kohli, operations director at The Mortgage Stop in Romsey, Hampshire, said: ‘Several lenders including Halifax were overpriced as the year ended compared to other deals in the market, probably because they did not want a busy end to the year.

‘It’s great to see the predicted reductions kick in so early in the new year but I think this is just the Halifax playing catchup with other lenders.

‘We’ll be watching what happens in the lead-up to the next inflation figures in a couple of weeks and the news on Christmas retail sales as this will likely drive lender decisions as they will provide a better indicator on any potential Bank of England rate decision in February.’

With the economy slowing and inflation expected to continue to fall, there is now a one-in-three chance the Bank will press ahead with the first rate cut as soon as March, according to financial markets.

There is an 80 per cent chance rates will have been cut to 5 per cent or lower in May.

The Bank is then expected to cut rates at each of its last five meetings of 2024 – in June, August, September, November and December – taking them to 3.75 per cent.

The US Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank are also expected to cut rates in the coming months.

Douglas McWilliams, deputy chairman at the Centre for Economics and Business Research, said: ‘Although inflation has not gone away, it has fallen very rapidly.

‘Market interest rates are already falling and it is likely that rates on both sides of the Atlantic will fall gently during 2024, though a return to near zero rates is a long way off.’

Separate data released yesterday by the Yorkshire Building Society, the number of first-time buyers who purchased a home with a mortgage in 2023 is estimated to be the lowest in a decade.

The firm calculated that, across the UK, there were around 290,000 first-time buyers in the mortgage market in 2023, shrinking by a fifth (21 per cent) compared with 2022 (when the total was 370,287) and the lowest number since 2013 (260,000).

In 2021, the number of first-time buyers was put at a 20-year high, at over 400,000, amid the coronavirus pandemic-fuelled ‘race for space’ as more people were able to work from home.

In December 2021, the first of a string of Bank of England base rate increases started, pushing up borrowing costs, including mortgages. Interest rate rises are used by the Bank as a tool to affect spending habits in the UK and bring down inflation.

Rival lenders will face a battle to attract new customers for mortgage products, experts say

Rival lenders will face a battle to attract new customers for mortgage products, experts say

In recent months, rates have been kept on hold, and the recent easing of inflation has fuelled speculation about when rates might start to decrease.

The fall in first-time buyers last year was less severe than the decrease in the overall number of buyers, the Society said.

This meant the estimated proportion of first-time buyers represented a bigger share of home buyers overall last year, at 54 per cent, increasing from 53 per cent in 2022.

It was also significantly higher than the 41 per cent of buyers who were taking their first step on the property ladder a decade ago.

The Yorkshire said that, while activity across all borrower types has fallen due to higher interest rates, cost-of-living pressures and high house prices, first-time buyers remain determined to overcome these challenges to invest in their own bricks and mortar.

But it added that borrowers are finding it harder to meet affordability requirements due to the combination of higher house prices, rising day-to-day costs and interest rates.

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The 11 things that make your garden look tacky, revealed by a top expert – including the flower colour that just screams cheap

A well-maintained garden may be a relaxing retreat – but it can also boost the kerb appeal and even the value of your home.

But, if done the wrong way, efforts to enhance your outside space can leave it looking cheap.

From choosing the wrong plant pots to – counterintuitively – being too tidy, the Mail’s gardening editor looks at the 11 common errors that can cheapen your garden, rather than helping it thrive. 

When tidy is too tidy

Many of us were brought up with strict ideas about well-kept gardens, with lawns neatly mown and weeds all pulled up. But that is no longer the prevailing aesthetic.

Letting go a little and being slightly untidy can lead to a more expensive looking haven. And leaving self-sown plants in summer and seed heads over winter will make your garden look more expensively abundant. Phew!

Wildflower beds with self-sown plants are now the prevailing aesthetic

Wildflower beds with self-sown plants are now the prevailing aesthetic 

Yellow’s not mellow

Don’t get me wrong, I have a soft spot for bright yellow flowers such as daffodils and sunflowers. But such garish flowers must be used in the right context.

Expansive garden beds the colour of a hi-vis vest? It’s a no. Yellow is difficult to match with other colours and should be used sparingly.

The perils of artificial grass

The quickest way to make your garden look cheap is to lay artificial turf. Used widely in sporting venues, fake grass became popular because it doesn’t need to be mowed or watered so is seen as low-maintenance and hard-wearing. But it almost always looks naff.

Plus, the disadvantages far outweigh the benefits. It is ruinous for wildlife and adds to global warming by absorbing more radiation than living grass, which acts as a carbon sink. Natural lawns allow rainwater to be soaked up, whereas artificial grass can cause run-off after heavy rainfall leading to flooding.

In hot weather, it can reach dangerous temperatures, especially for pets who might burn their paws. Plus, it only has a lifespan of ten to 20 years, after which time it is difficult to recycle.

 Soulless bare fences

Fences without greenery can make your garden look boxy and cheap. There are plenty of easy climbers you can plant to soften the feel and make your garden look more high-end.

Star Jasmine is a lovely evergreen with pretty white flowers, while climbing hydrangea is good for a shady corner.

If you want privacy, remember evergreen hedges can’t be more than 2m high, according to the High Hedges Act. Instead try planting deciduous silver birch trees with attractive white trunks and green foliage in summer when you are out in the garden.

Don’t settle for plastic furniture

Moulded plastic chairs are unsightly and should be avoided at all costs. Plus, they’re uncomfortable and topple if you lean too far back, or slice into any bare flesh unfortunate enough to touch the seat.

If your budget won’t stretch to buying new wood, rattan or metal alternatives, search local online groups to see if anyone has second hand deck chairs or outdoor dining sets on offer.

If you are willing to buy something preloved and weathered, it can often cost less but look more expensive.

Thin borders, a thing of the past

Narrow flower beds around the edge of a rectangular lawn used to be thought of as the ideal garden design, but these days it just looks scrimping.

Borders should be at least a metre deep to allow for multi-layered planting. Don’t just put them around the perimeter of your garden. Flower beds used to divide up a space add a touch of mystery and look much classier.

Gadgets and gazebos

Barbecues, fire pits, corner sofas, gazebos, over-sized paddling pools – its easy for your outdoor space to become cluttered with so many garden gadgets you can’t move around without tripping over them.

Decide what you really need and use often, then recycle the rest. Or store them away neatly in the shed until you want to use them.

Plastic plant pot horror

It is tricky to keep plants looking good in plastic containers, even the ones that attempt to imitate terracotta.

As well as the lack of sustainability, the trouble with plastic is that unlike materials such as wood and stone, it provides no protection for plants against drying out in summer and freezing in winter, and it is not breathable.

If you do have plastic pots, reuse them for propagating and save your best non-plastic containers for display purposes.

Paving the way to disaster  

Every gardener needs somewhere to sit, but this shouldn’t come at the expense of losing too much of your lawn.

Ideally there should be a ratio of at least two-thirds planting and grass to one-third hard surface. If you are putting in a new patio, consider leaving gaps between the pavers for low plants such as creeping thyme and Mind-Your-Own-Business which will also help with drainage. 

If you want to park your car in your front garden, choose a permeable surface with planting around the edges.

Fly-away greenhouses

I must confess I own one of these mini shelving units covered in a zip-up, see-through plastic smock. But after it fell over outside one too many times in windy weather, despite being tied to the wall, I have brought it in to our lean-to where I now use it as a propagating unit. A pile of overturned seed trays and spilled soil does nothing to add to kerb appeal.

Do away with dead pot plants 

Well-tended container planting can add a cheerful welcome to a garden or balcony, but there is little as off-putting as being greeted by a collection of unidentifiable shrivelled dead plants in pots.

Avoid this by doing your research and choosing plants you love which will encourage you to water and feed them regularly. Having a water butt nearby makes this task much easier.

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Assessing Property Size: What Square Footage Can You Get With The Average UK House Price In Your Area?

Assessing Property Size In The UK

In the United Kingdom, there is a prevailing tendency to gauge the size of residences based on the number of bedrooms rather than square footage. In fact, research indicates that three out of five individuals are unaware of the square footage of their property.

However, a comprehensive analysis conducted by Savills reveals significant variations in property sizes throughout the country. For instance, with the average property price standing at £340,837, this amount would typically afford a studio flat spanning 551 square feet in London, according to the prominent estate agency.

Conversely, in the North East region, the same sum would secure a spacious five-bedroom house measuring 1,955 square feet, nearly four times the size of a comparable property in London.

Best value: Heading to the North East of England is where buyers will get the most from their money

In Scotland, the median house price equates to a sizable investment capable of procuring a generous four-bedroom residence spanning 1,743 square feet. Conversely, in Wales, Yorkshire & The Humber, and the North West, this sum affords a slightly smaller four-bedroom dwelling of approximately 1,500 square feet, while in the East and West Midlands, it accommodates a 1,300 square foot home. In stark contrast, within the South West, £340,837 secures a modest 1,000 square foot property, and in the East, an even more confined 928 square feet.

London presents the most challenging market, where this budget offers the least purchasing power. Following closely, the South East allows for 825 square feet of space or a medium-sized two-bedroom dwelling. Lucian Cook, head of residential research at Savills, emphasizes the profound disparity in purchasing potential across Britain, ranging from compact studio flats in London to spacious four or five-bedroom residences in parts of North East England.

While square footage serves as a critical metric, with a significant portion of Britons unfamiliar with their property’s dimensions, the number of bedrooms remains a traditional indicator of size. Personal preferences, such as a preference for larger kitchens, may influence property selection. For those prioritizing ample space, Easington, County Durham, offers a substantial 2,858 square foot, five-bedroom home, while Rhondda, Wales, and Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Scotland, provide 2,625 and 2,551 square feet, respectively. Conversely, in St Albans, Hertfordshire, £340,837 secures a mere 547 square feet, equivalent to a one-bedroom flat.

The disparity continues in central London, where purchasing power diminishes considerably. In Kensington, the budget accommodates a mere 220 square feet, contrasting with the slightly more spacious 236 square feet in Westminster. Conversely, in Dagenham, the same investment translates to 770 square feet. Three properties currently listed on Rightmove exemplify the diversity within this price range across the UK market.

South of the river: This semi-detached house is located near to three different train stations

South of the river: This semi-detached house is located near to three different train stations

2. Lewisham: One-bed house, £345,000

This one-bedroom property in Lewisham, South London, is on the market for £345,000.

The semi-detached house is set over two floors, and has a private patio.

The property is located near to bus links and amenities, as well as Catford train station.

Edinburgh fringe: This three-bed property is located on the edge of the city, near to the town of Musselburgh

Edinburgh fringe: This three-bed property is located on the edge of the city, near to the town of Musselburgh

3. Edinburgh: Three-bed house, £350,000

This three-bedroom detached house in Edinburgh could be yours for £350,000.

The house, which has a two-car driveway, boasts a large kitchen diner, and is within easy reach of Newcriaghall train station.


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The house that Poundland bought: Moated manor complete with a swimming pool and a museum about the budget chain that was owned by late founder Keith Smith goes on the market for £7.75m

A stunning manor that was bought by the late founder of Poundland has gone on the market for £7.75million.

The nine-bed refurbished Jacobean mansion in Claverley, Shropshire has its own swimming pool and features a museum dedicated to the budget chain. 

Keith Smith launched the discount chain in 1990 with his son Steve and together they grew the enterprise to over 70 stores before selling it for £50million in 2002.

Mr Smith, who grew up in nearby Willenhall, bought Ludstone Hall in 1997 with his Poundland profits upon returning to the UK.  He died in 2022, aged 79, after a short battle with cancer and his wife Maureen passed away a few months later.

Now, his son Steve and his siblings are selling his late father’s beloved home for £7.75million. 

Ludstone Hall dates back to Medieval times but the current property was built in 1607 for the Whitmore family. The estate stayed in the family until 1867 and has only had a handful of owners since.

Steve Smith (pictured) at the moated manor home which his parents bought in 1997

Steve Smith (pictured) at the moated manor home which his parents bought in 1997 

The Poundland museum which is located inside Ludstone Hall

The Poundland museum which is located inside Ludstone Hall 

One of the dining rooms in Ludstone Hall which was owned by co-founder of Poundland Keith Smith

One of the dining rooms in Ludstone Hall which was owned by co-founder of Poundland Keith Smith 

The home is now on the market for £7.75million

The home is now on the market for £7.75million

The swimming pool located inside the manor home in Shropshire

The swimming pool located inside the manor home in Shropshire 

Poundland's co-founders Steve and Keith Smith pictured together

Poundland’s co-founders Steve and Keith Smith pictured together

The manor has period features such as mullioned windows, panelled reception hall, stone fireplaces and the remarkable survival of the original lead rainwater goods.

The main house has over 8,000 sq ft of accommodation including four reception rooms, nine bedrooms, seven bathrooms and extensive cellars. 

A leisure complex at the rear includes the swimming pool with retractable floor, a handmade oak bar, separate dining area and a hot tub under a raised platform.

There is a two-bedroom gate lodge on the grounds and a number of outbuildings, including a coach house that the Smiths converted to create a museum to the history of both the estate and Poundland.

The formal gardens include box hedging, lawns, squash court, the moat, raised terraces, a lake and an orchard.

Steve Smith (pictured) outside his parents' home in Claverley, Shropshire

Steve Smith (pictured) outside his parents’ home in Claverley, Shropshire 

The main house has over 8,000 sq ft of accommodation including four reception rooms, nine bedrooms, seven bathrooms and extensive cellars

The main house has over 8,000 sq ft of accommodation including four reception rooms, nine bedrooms, seven bathrooms and extensive cellars

The kitchen area inside the property which has an island and a chandelier

The kitchen area inside the property which has an island and a chandelier 

One of the living rooms in the property which boasts period features

One of the living rooms in the property which boasts period features 

A luxurious main double-bedroom at the home which features a four-poster bed and fireplace

A luxurious main double-bedroom at the home which features a four-poster bed and fireplace

A Poundland store in Staines-upon-Thames, Surrey

A Poundland store in Staines-upon-Thames, Surrey

After leaving school, Keith Smith worked as an apprentice draughtsman before running a market stall and the Hooty’s cash & carry in Willenhall, Walsall. 

When his son Steve turned 18 and wanted to launch a business of his own, his father gave him the idea of starting up a shop where everything was £1.

With a £50,000 loan from Keith, the pair co-founded Poundland, with the first shop opening in Burton upon Trent, in Staffordshire.

Steve, 61, said: ‘When my parents came back to the UK they wanted to find a home where they would never want to move from, and they certainly found that at Ludstone.

‘My mum and dad really loved their time at the estate which can be seen in the amount of money they invested in the property – it really is the home that Poundland built.

The home was bought in 1997 by Keith Smith with his Poundland profits

The home was bought in 1997 by Keith Smith with his Poundland profits 

Mr Smith and his wife Maureen spent £7million on a major refurb of the nine bedroom Jacobean mansion

Mr Smith and his wife Maureen spent £7million on a major refurb of the nine bedroom Jacobean mansion

The swimming pool which is located underneath the floor

The swimming pool which is located underneath the floor

A bridge across the moat which surrounds the stunning property in Claverley

A bridge across the moat which surrounds the stunning property in Claverley 

‘One particular investment they made was installing the swimming pool. They wanted to have a big party for the millennium so had one with a retractable floor installed so that the room could also be used to host events.

‘Living locally myself, I have some really happy memories of their time here. I used to bring dad the broken sweets we couldn’t sell and he’d feed them to the cows that he kept in the grounds. The cows were sold to a supermarket chain who said that it was the sweetest meat they’d tasted.

‘We’d also hold charity events and open up the museum to visitors and raised thousands of pounds for local good causes over the years.

‘The property holds so much historic significance, and has only had a handful of owners since it was built. We’re now keen to see the property go to a new family who can make their own memories here.

‘While the Ludstone Hall Estate section of the museum will remain at the property, we’ll also be donating all of the Poundland memorabilia to Poundland so that they can preserve the history of the company.’

Ludstone Hall is being sold by estate agents Fisher German.

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