Could further rate rises affect the bridging market?

Jonathan Sealey

September 4, 2018

Jonathan Sealey is chief executive of Hope Capital

After almost a decade with static, low rate environment, November 2017 saw the first rate rise in 11 years. There was much talk at the time that it could be followed by several more. Then nothing until last month, where a 0.25% rise saw the bank rate hit 0.75%, the highest it has been since 2009.

The Bank of England has indicated that it will be followed with at least one more rise before tFhe end of the year, maybe two. So, we are finally seeing a shift to a rate rise environment, a bit of shock after the static situation we have all been familiar with for so long.

November’s rise – the first many borrowers will have ever seen – coupled with this latest rise and the fact there is still uncertainty over Brexit, means we are in uncharted territory.

The one thing we do know, is that rates are rising, but how far and by how much remains unknown. Another unknown is how these recent and potential rate rises will affect the bridging market.

Generally speaking, while rate rises can affect the short-term lending market, it is less rate sensitive than the mainstream lending market. This is down to two main reasons. Firstly, due to their short-term nature, the rates of a bridging loan will generally not rise during the loan term, and secondly, because bridging lenders are funded differently from mainstream lenders.

Some bridging lenders are reliant on external funding, while others like Hope Capital, are principal lenders, which means they are privately funded, and therefore not directly affected by BoE rate rises.

In fact, as bridging becomes more accepted as a viable alternative to high street lenders, there is more competition in the market which has actually forced rates down. However, rates do vary quite widely between lenders because cases are taken on an individual basis, so rates are agreed depending on a number of factors including the speed at which the borrower needs to loan in place, how flexible the lender needs to be and the risk involved.

The main effect of rate rises on the bridging market, therefore, is exit routes. Borrowers who are looking to refinance as their exit route will be affected by higher rates on the longer-term finance deals that they go onto after the bridging loan. Therefore, bridging lenders and brokers need to be aware that if rates rise, it may affect the borrowers’ exit strategy and therefore their ability to repay the loan, which may need to be taken into account when assessing the risk.

Even if selling the property is the customer’s exit strategy, this still may be affected by rising rates because higher rates tend to slow property price growth.

However, assuming rates don’t rise significantly, I think the impact of the recent rises on the bridging industry to be fairly minimal. At Hope Capital, thanks to our position as a principal lender, we will continue to look at every case on an individual basis, whether there is a rate rise or not.

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