Mortgage Protection - easing your biggest concerns.
By Michael Challiner
OK, now you have a lovely new home and with it comes a lovely new mortgage. With the average mortgage advance standing at around £150,000 it's a long-term commitment to repay a lot of money. The repayments also take a fair slice out of your monthly income.
What could go wrong with these financial arrangements and can you hedge your bets by insuring against the risks? After all you have a family to protect.
Most people would identify 5 main areas of concern, all of which boil down to your ability to maintain the mortgage repayments:
Interest rates might increase and make the monthly repayments unaffordable
You might loose your job
You might be forced to take time off work through illness or accident
You may become permanently unable to work through accident or very serious illness
You could die before the mortgage is paid off.
The financial industry is packed with pretty shrewd people so it'll come as no surprise to learn that there are financial products to help with each of these risks.
If you want to reduce the risk of interest rates rising to unaffordable levels, you should have discussed these matters with your mortgage adviser. He will then have told you about "fixed" and "capped interest rate" mortgages. As the name implies, a fixed rate mortgage fixes the interest rate you pay whilst with a "capped" mortgage, the lender agrees not to increase your interest rate above a pre-agreed level. Both types of mortgage revert to the standard variable rate after the fixed or capped period finishes which is typically after three or five years, depending on your lender.
Fixed rate mortgages are currently very popular accounting for 55% of new advances and there are some very good deals around. The capped rate for capped rate mortgages is usually set at the outset above the equivalent fixed rates available but the rate you pay is lower than the fixed rates. In this context your interest rate risk can be effectively controlled. After the end of the protected period you always have the option to re-mortgage and find another rate protected deal. There are never any guarantees on the rates that will be available but the mortgage market is highly competitive, especially for re-mortgages, and special rate offers abound. It's really a matter of knowing which lender to approach. When the time comes you'd be well advised to ask a mortgage broker to search out the most suitable options.
Worried about paying your mortgage if you lost your job? Then you need Mortgage Payment Protection Insurance - but be aware that in its basic form, this insurance is really only designed to cover redundancy. If you resign or are fired for gross misconduct your unlikely to be insured. The cost? Online you can expect to pay around £2.45 per £100 of monthly mortgage payment for a policy which starts paying out 30 days after you've been made redundant and will pay out for up to 12 months. You're sure to have been offered similar insurance by your bank or mortgage company but watch out, their premiums are likely to be two or three times higher for identical cover.
Mortgage Payment Protection Policies can also be extended to cover the third area of concern – you lose income through illness or accident. But before you rush into this insurance you need to ask your employer how long they'd continue paying you if you were off work. Remember, you only need to insure for the period after your employer stops paying. You would then receive statutory sickness pay, but the odds are you'll need that income for general living costs. The cost for this insurance? Well, online it'll again cost you around £2.45 per £100 of monthly mortgage payment for a policy which starts paying out after 30 days, However, if you combine illness, accident and unemployment cover all into one policy you can currently get combined insurance for around £3.95 per month. The essential point to remember is that these policies will only pay out for 12 months. That leads on to the fourth area of concern.
How would you pay your mortgage if you were unable to work again through a serious accident or critical illness? In this context it is important to appreciate the reality of the risk. The insurance industry estimates that 1 in 5 men and 1 in 6 women suffer a critical illness before their normal retirement age. Just think what a heart attack at 40 would mean to your family finances, especially if you have a mortgage with many years still to run. For many, insurance is a must.
The best option is to arrange insurance that totally repays the outstanding mortgage if you can't continue to work. That at least removes one big worry. The insurance you need is called Critical Illness Insurance but make sure "total and permanent disability" cover is included. This ensures that your mortgage will be repaid if you are incapacitated through an accident.
You can buy Critical Illness Insurance with "decreasing cover" where the size of the payout decreases as the years go by. This is ideal if you have a repayment mortgage where you are repaying the mortgage bit by bit each month. Decreasing cover is also the cheapest form of this Insurance.
If you have an interest only mortgage, the situation is different as the sum you owe your lender, remains constant. You certainly don't want the cover to decrease - so here you need Critical Illness Insurance with "level cover".
As with all these insurances, there's always a twist to watch out for. With Critical illness Insurance you always need to survive for a minimum period following an accident or diagnosis of a critical illness. If you don't, the policy will not pay out. With most insurance companies the survival period is 28 days although some have reduced this to 14 days.
That leads on what happens if you were to die. Most lenders insist on Mortgage Life Insurance to repay your mortgage in one lump sum. However, you really don't need it if you're single and living alone. In these circumstances, if you would die, your estate would simply repay your mortgage by selling the property. For everyone else, Mortgage Life insurance is the most commonly held form of mortgage protection. Again it comes in a "decreasing cover" format for those with repayment mortgages and "level cover" format to repay interest only mortgages.
All this insurance will not be cheap but there are ways of significantly reducing the cost. Buy a Mortgage Payment Protection Policy that combines unemployment, accident and illness cover. Sometimes this is called "unemployment and disability" cover. This will save you about 20%. The cheapest way to buy Critical Illness and Mortgage Life Insurance is again to buy a combined policy. Here it's difficult to be precise about the savings as the cost will be strictly calculated on your own personal details and health record - but you can certainly expect to save 20-25%.
The final bit of advice is shop around for the insurance. Your bank or building society will be absolutely delighted to arrange it but you'll pay top dollar. The Internet is by far the cheapest way to buy all these insurances, especially if you use one of the many discounting brokers. You'll find these brokers if you search under "life insurance", "cheap life insurance", "life insurance quotes" or "Mortgage Protection Insurance".
Competition on the net is rife, so it's norm for these brokers to cut commission and pass the savings back to you through lower premiums. There are other aspects you'll need to consider such as whether to buy a policy with a "Guaranteed Premium" or a "Reviewable Premium". So you're best advised to talk matters over with a life insurance adviser. Ten minutes on the phone with an adviser could save you more and avoid a lot of heartache.
Be lucky, keep fit, happy and well insured!
About the Author
Michael Challiner has 15 years experience in financial services marketing at senior level. Michael now works as the editor of Express Life Insurance
Futher reading Mortgage insurance topics
Futher reading What is mortgage life insurance ?
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