What is an interest-only mortgage?

Stuart Bowman

5-minute read

Last updated: 2nd April 2020

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Interest-only mortgages are mortgage deals where you only pay back interest, not the capital or loan amount.

It means that your repayments are lower, because you're only paying interest. But at the end of the term, you will still owe the full amount of your loan… and the lender will expect you to pay it back.

Interest-only mortgage vs repayment mortgage comparison examples

Let's take a £150,000 loan at 3% over 25 years.

With a repayment mortgage, you're repayments would be around £710 a month and you'd repay £213,000 in total – £63,000 in interest plus your £150,000 loan amount.

With an interest-only mortgage, your repayments would be around £375 a month and you'd repay £262,000 in total – £112,000 in interest plus your £150,000 loan amount.

With a regular repayment mortgage your monthly repayments cover both interest and loan repayments. So, as the loan matures, you actually pay less interest because your loan amount gets smaller.

Interest only mortgage v repayment mortgage graph

Why would you want an interest-only mortgage?

As you can see, you're paying a lot more back in total with an interest-only loan, but your monthly repayments are a lot lower during the term.

So, if you’re struggling to find mortgages with manageable monthly payments, hope isn’t necessarily lost. An interest-only mortgage might be the way to go.

There's also that big lump sum at the end to think about. It looks really daunting being asked to pay back £150,000 (for example) at once. But in fact, you have 25 years (in this case) to prepare for it.

You could choose to invest the savings you make on the monthly repayments. However, more commonly, people hope their equity helps make up some of the lump sum.

For example, according to Land Registry data, 25 years ago, the average home in the UK was valued at £57,000.

Now, in 2020, the average home in the UK is valued at almost £224,000.

That in itself is a rise of £167,000 more than enough to pay back the £150,000 lump sum.

Pros and cons of interest-only mortgages for residential purchases

The advantages of interest-only are:

  • Beneficial for buyers who are expecting a windfall in the future
  • Buyers can invest the savings from lower monthly repayments
  • Buyers may benefit from capital appreciation during the mortgage term

The disadvantages of interest-only are:

  • Unlike repayment mortgages, where the interest decreases as you pay down the capital, your interest payments will remain the same
  • If you can’t pay the mortgage off in one lump sum when you agreed to, your home could be repossessed, and there will be nothing to show for your interest payments
  • If the market changes, and if your house falls in value, you’ll still pay interest on the original loan
  • Getting one can be very tough. Lenders can see interest only mortgages as a riskier prospect

How do I get an interest-only mortgage deal?

Lenders see interest-only options as much riskier than repayment mortgages.

Interest-only was more common prior to the 2008 financial crisis – and back then you didn't even need to show a lender how you intended to repay the capital sum.

Once the economy hit the skids, people found it difficult to repay their loans at the end of the terms.

Now, not all lenders offer interest-only mortgages, if you're determined to check out interest-only mortgage lender, expect to be asked to have:

  • A big deposit
  • A clear repayment plan

However, each lender will have their own eligibility criteria. Nationwide, for instance, has recently re-entered the interest only mortgage market. They are offering the deal via intermediaries – brokers like Mojo. They ask for:

  • An LTV of 60%
  • A minimum equity of
  • £300,000 in London
  • £250,000 in the South East
  • £200,000 in the rest of the UK
  • A minimum income of £75,000
  • You to sell your property at the end of the term as your repayment or exit strategy

Interest only mortgages and buy-to-let

Buy-to-let interest-only mortgages are the exception. In the buy-to-let market, interest only mortgages are actually the norm. You can read more about that in our full buy-to-let mortgage guide.

Retirement interest-only mortgages

The FCA states "retirement interest-only mortgages are loans for older consumers where the lender will not seek repayment of the loan until a specified life event (usually the customer’s death or move into residential care). At that point the loan is repaid through the sale of the property".

Retirement interest-only mortgages were reclassified from equity release products to mainstream mortgages in 2018. The regulation change was meant to result in more lenders entering the market. Since their launch the number of products available has risen from 5 to 74.

Is there a part and part interest-only-repayment mortgage?

You can get mortgage deals like this. You'll be asked to state what sum you want as interest-only and what sum, you'll want as repayment. Also, bear in mind not all lenders will offer this, so your options may be very limited.

I'm on an interest-only mortgage, can I switch?

There's a good chance your lender will be happy to facilitate a switch to a repayment option – as mentioned, it represents less risk for them.

If you're concerned about repaying your capital loan sum at the end of the remortgage speak to your lender as soon as possible.

As well as switching, some of the options that may be available to you include:

  • Switching to a part and part mortgage
  • More regularly lump sum payments to reduce the final mortgage balance
  • Making regular overpayments

Mortgage guides

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Fixed rate mortgages explained

Fixed rate mortgages can give you the peace of mind of knowing what your repayments will be every month – any drawbacks?

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Can I afford to get on the property ladder?

A mortgage lender will decide whether you can afford a mortgage or not, and there’s more to it than just the size of your salary...

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