Is it time to switch your mortgage?

The recent spate of mortagage-rate rises will have come as unwelcome news to thousands of homeowners. Tim Bennett investigates whether it is time to switch lenders.

It's been a bad week for around a million of Britain's mortgage holders. Despite Britain's Bank of England rate being held at 0.5%, some of the biggest lenders have raised their standard variable rates (SVRs) by between 0.25 and 1.5 percentage points.

The one that will have the widest impact, hitting around 850,000 customers, is the Halifax raise of 0.49 percentage points. According to consumer association Which?, the combined increases will add around £300m to the nation's mortgage bills.

And this is no flash-in-the-pan. As Ben Thompson, MD of Legal & General's Mortgage Club, tells, "it is almost certain that we have now seen the cheapest mortgage rates in a lifetime and that rates bottomed some time ago".

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So what to do? If you are now suffering an SVR above 4% and have some equity in your house, consider a switch to a five-year, fixed-rate deal instead. Yorkshire Building Society offers a deal at 3.99% on up to 75% loan to value, with a £495 arrangement fee.

Rising mortgage costs are also bad news for the housing market, of course. According to Bank of England data, in March the number of mortgages approved for house purchase (as opposed to re-mortgaging) ticked higher, rising to 49,900 from 49,000 in February.

However, the figure remains well below the long-term average, and as Paul Diggle at Capital Economics notes, with mortgage costs likely to continue to rise, "these do not look like conditions under which mortgage approvals for house purchase can increase noticeably".

Meanwhile, for anyone trying to sell a house, there's some simple advice from HSBC, based on its latest Home Improvement Survey. Forget major home improvements this Bank Holiday weekend the best way to make a good impression on buyers and increase the chance of making a sale is to de-clutter, cut the grass, repair chipped paintwork and repaint the front door.

If you're one of the millions of people who were mis-sold payment protection insurance (PPI), don't be ripped off twice. Specialist firms claim to handle the 'complex' administration on your behalf and even increase your chances of successfully making a claim.

But as notes, these firms take a huge chunk of any amount awarded (25% is typical), a waste of money given the process of claiming is perfectly straightforward. If you need to claim, visit and follow the checklist before filling in the template letter.

With all the recent rainfall, anyone living in an area at high risk of flooding should check their car insurance policy. The most basic level of cover for third party, fire and theft won't cover flood damage and some comprehensive policies may carry a hefty excess. Homeowners too should check their cover a mortgage firm will usually insist on buildings cover, but this rarely covers contents as well.

Tim graduated with a history degree from Cambridge University in 1989 and, after a year of travelling, joined the financial services firm Ernst and Young in 1990, qualifying as a chartered accountant in 1994.

He then moved into financial markets training, designing and running a variety of courses at graduate level and beyond for a range of organisations including the Securities and Investment Institute and UBS. He joined MoneyWeek in 2007.