Interest-only mortgages are exactly what they sound like. During the lifetime of the mortgage, you only repay the interest on the mortgage. The principal only becomes repayable at the end of the term. On the one hand, this keeps your monthly payments low. On the other hand, it means you pay the maximum amount of interest because the amount owed does not go down over the term of the mortgage as it does with repayment mortgages. It also means that there is a huge bill waiting for you at the end of the term.
Interest-only mortgages are still very much alive and kicking
These days, interest-only mortgages have just about disappeared from the residential-mortgage market. They are still very much in use in the buy-to-let market but that is another situation. There are, however, still a number of “legacy” interest-only mortgages at various stages of maturity and if you hold one of them, then you need to start thinking seriously about your options.
Option 1 – convert to a repayment mortgage
This may not be as easy as it sounds given that interest-only mortgages are more affordable month-to-month than repayment ones, so, you may find that the higher payments required for a repayment mortgage are out of your reach, especially if you are due to retire over the course of the term. On the other hand, it might not be out of the question either, especially if you are going to be working for most of the term. Although you will not have any equity in your home, if it’s value has gone up, then that will effectively act as a deposit for you and reduce the amount you need to borrow.
Option 2 – sell your home
You don’t have any equity in your home, so equity release isn’t an option. In practical terms, you’re just renting it from the bank, while you work on getting the money together to buy it outright. In principle, you have an advantage over renters in that you can do what you like with and in your own home. The flip side of this, however, is that you also have the responsibility of maintaining the property.
If you can’t convert to a repayment mortgage and don’t yet have a feasible plan in place for paying off the principal at the end of the term, then it might be best to consider whether or not you really stand a decent chance of being able to do so and, even if you do, whether you’re really willing to do whatever it is you’re going to need to do to make that happen. In other words, how much of a sacrifice are you willing to make?
Unless you are 100% sure that you can get the necessary funds together and that you’re willing to do whatever is necessary to achieve your goal, then it might be best just to grit your teeth and sell your home, even if you are in negative equity, because there’s no guarantee that the situation will get better if you wait. In fact it might get worse.
Option 3 – increase your income so as to be able to make the repayment
There are lots of potential ways to increase your income from monetizing your home in some way (e.g. renting out a room), to starting a side-hustle, to looking at savings and investments. Each has different advantages and disadvantages and chances of success. If you’re going to go down this route, then it may make sense to talk with a financial adviser so that you can get an unbiased second opinion on how practical your plan is likely to be and whether there are any adjustments you could make which might improve its chances of success.
Your property may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage.
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