35-year mortgages on the rise as UK buyers struggle financially

Houses in the UK.
Houses in the UK. Copyright Canva.
Copyright Canva.
By Eleanor Butler
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Banks warn of a surge in long-term mortgages as buyers seek to get on the housing ladder.


Mortgages that require longer-loan repayments are becoming increasingly popular in the UK, according to the banking association UK Finance. 

Housing loans in the UK are commonly spread over 25 years, although this may be starting to shift.

In December, 23% of first-time buyers took out mortgages longer than 35 years,  compared with 11% of non-first time buyers, data released by the group revealed.

Just a year ago, the proportion of people buying their first home who took out loans over 35 years was 17%, up from 9% in December 2021.

UK Finance is warning that this trend is driven by affordability issues, as the longer the mortgage term, the lower monthly bills will be.

In order to get initial mortgage payments back to 2022 levels, first-time buyers would have to take out a 72-year loan, the group added. That would be an impossible task as the maximum mortgage term in the UK is 40 years. 

Why are first time buyers turning to these deals?

Younger people have been finding it more difficult to buy a property in the UK since the Bank of England (BOE) started to raise interest rates in December 2021.

In order to tackle post-pandemic inflation, the BOE implemented 14 consecutive rate hikes, meaning the cost of borrowing has risen considerably.

Added to this, affordability issues aren't helped by the cost of living crisis, and the fact that prices of UK properties have been rising faster than wages over the long term.

Forty years ago, it took the average couple three years to save for a deposit to buy a home. It now takes nine years. 

As a result, mortgage lender Halifax estimates that the age of a first-time buyer in the UK is now 32 years old, two years older than the figure recorded in 2013.

Dangers of longer mortgage terms

Despite recognising the risks, mortgage lender Nationwide is upbeat about extending the length of term of a mortgage. 

A Nationwide spokesperson told Euronews: "Raising a deposit and the ability to borrow enough remain the two biggest challenges to getting on the property ladder. Nationwide is already addressing these challenges through its range of higher LTV mortgages, including our innovative Helping Hand proposition which allows borrowing up to 5.5 times income. Borrowers can choose the length of their mortgage up to 40 years and we allow flexibility to adjust the term throughout the duration of the mortgage to help manage repayments."

However, while having the option to lower monthly payments may be a lifeline for some, taking out longer-term mortgages has its drawbacks.

For one thing, the longer it takes to pay back a loan, the more interest will be due.

There is also the danger that, if an individual is still making mortgage repayments in their retirement years, their quality of life will be sacrificed.

"One in six people expect to be over the age of 65 by the time they repay their mortgage (17%), whilst almost one in 10 expect to be over 70," said Sarah Coles, Head of Personal Finance at Hargreaves Lansdown.

"This doesn't have to be the end of the world ... However, it's essential to do the maths to assess what this means for you."


"If you are forced to pay for longer, you could miss a key window of funding your pension. Traditionally, once children left home and the mortgage was paid off, you had an opportunity to dramatically increase pension contributions. If you're still repaying your mortgage into retirement, this opportunity will pass."

What will happen to rates this year?

Looking ahead to 2024, there may be a glimmer of hope on the horizon for those looking to buy a house.

While many may still be pushed to accept long-term loans, mortgage costs are predicted to fall over the year, as markets expect an interest rate cut from the Bank of England.

Individuals already on fixed-rate schemes won't see their payments change until their term is up, but those on variable deals or those who are looking to take out a mortgage will be likely to benefit.

"2023 was a tough year for UK households," said Eric Leenders, managing director of Personal Finance at UK Finance, "but pressures should start to ease gradually through this year and next."

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