Starting a family is one of the stages in your life when home becomes more important than ever. You want a happy, stable home that will suit your family lifestyle, and you might be thinking about moving to find it. Moving home when you are expanding your family is about much more than just needing extra space – although that is a big factor. You might be considering moving closer to a good school, or you might just feel like your current home isn’t really designed for life with a young family.
We are moving house in a few days and the main reason is that we have simply outgrown our current home. With two young children, we would like more space and a bigger garden for them to play out in. We had a list of criteria of things we wanted from our perfect home, and all centred on finding somewhere that is more suitable for our family life.
As part of The Cumberland’s #GrinUpNorth campaign, I was asked if I would meet one of their advisers to talk about mortgages. So a couple of weeks I went along to my local branch and met with branch manager Lewis.
One of the key themes I picked up from our meeting is how much customer service matters to The Cumberland. They know that not everyone is the same – and they embrace that by making sure that their service is tailored to individual needs. They have advisers available outside of normal office hours and at weekends, and you don’t even need to go into branch to apply for a mortgage – you can apply over the phone. However you apply, the same person will look after your application from start to finish. You don’t need to worry about your application being dealt with by a faceless call centre – it’s someone within the building society looking after you every step of the way.
The local nature of The Cumberland adds to its appeal. It gives them the flexibility to make decisions on mortgages based on more than just the facts and figures. By talking to their customers and getting to know them, they can see the wider picture. They are a local building society for local people – they understand their communities and how important it is to build lasting relationships with their customers. In a close-knit community like ours, word of mouth is probably the most powerful advertisement there is – and this is reflected in their ‘Recommend a friend’ campaign, where existing customers can earn £25 if one of their friends or family set up a current account, and £100 if they take out a mortgage, subject to terms and conditions.
The Cumberland is relatively small compared to national banks and building societies, and as it only covers a specific area it often it doesn’t appear in national “best buy” tables – however, it’s won many national awards, including the Mortgage Financial Gazette’s “Best Regional Building Society” award for consistently competitive mortgages for the third year in a row. It’s also been rated as having the happiest current account customers in the UK for the second time in a row, according to research by Fairer Finance.
And it’s not hard to see why. After speaking to Lewis about mortgages and some of the other services they offer I’m now planning to switch my current account to The Cumberland. I was really impressed with the level of service and their friendly staff – and the fact that their switch guarantee means that they will do all the leg work when it comes to moving over your account to make it as easy and pain-free as possible! But back to talking mortgages – I want to go through the process so you can see just how easy it is.
My Appointment with a Mortgage Adviser
Prior to my appointment I was sent a clear list of documentation to bring with me to the appointment, plus I received a reminder the day before by text.
First of all, Lewis asked some questions to find out how much money we’d be looking to borrow on a mortgage. I knew an exact amount as we had already found the house we wanted to buy, but if you are a first time buyer or thinking about moving but haven’t got a budget in mind, they can help you work out how much you could borrow before you start looking for that perfect home.
Next I answered a few questions about our incomings and outgoings. This bit is quite easy as the information for outgoings is automatically calculated based on the size of your family, and you just go through the list with the adviser and adjust it if you spend more or less than the average. It includes things like bills, food shopping, clothes, transport, etc. – all the regular outgoings that you would have over the course of the month.
All this information then helps you and the adviser to determine which mortgage will be best for your individual circumstances. The shorter the term (this is the number of years you will pay back the mortgage over) the less you will pay in interest, but at the same time it’s important to be realistic and get the right balance between paying off your mortgage and having enough left over the enjoy life and those luxuries that you don’t really want to forgo.
This next bit is where it starts to get a little bit complicated – but Lewis talked through everything really clearly and you are not rushed, you can take as long as you need to go through everything so that you fully understand it. This is where you look at the different mortgage deals, for example a 2 year fixed or 5 year variable. Your adviser can explain the difference between all the available options, but in a nutshell there are 3 different types of mortgage:
Fixed – you pay the same amount every month. This is good for customers who want the stability of knowing how much they will be paying every month.
Variable – the amount you pay will vary if the interest rate changes. If rates decrease, so do your payments and vice versa. On the one hand you could benefit if rates drop, but you also run the risk of rates and therefore mortgage payments, increasing
Offset – this one is a bit more complicated. You can use the money in your savings accounts (which must be already with The Cumberland) to save on your mortgage, so you could repay your mortgage sooner.
Your adviser will happily go through all the options with you and you can clearly see on the screen how much you would be paying back every month so you can compare options.
There are other things to consider, such as the initial cost of setting up a mortgage. You have a couple of options – you can pay the arrangement and valuation fees up front, or you can pay reduced fees but have the extra added on to your mortgage, resulting in slightly higher monthly payments. For first time buyers, The Cumberland offers a free valuation and a reduced arrangement fee.
It does sound quite complicated, and this year is the first time I’ve been involved in mortgage discussions so I completely understand how daunting it can be! However, the whole process above only takes 45-60 minutes and it was fairly straightforward. Following the initial appointment, your adviser will keep in touch with you on a regular basis and is happy to answer any questions you might have.
We’ve partnered up with The Cumberland Building Society to shine a light on all that is great about Cumbria – my home county and the home of The Cumberland. As part of the #GrinUpNorth campaign, I wrote a blog post about one of my favourite places in Cumbria – and why it’s far from grim up North. You can read about that here.
This post is sponsored by The Cumberland Building Society, which has 34 branches across Cumbria and North Lancashire offering mortgages, savings, current accounts and home insurance. It was named ‘Best Regional Building Society’ for a third year in a row at the 2017 Mortgage Finance Gazette awards. You can find out more about The Cumberland and its services at www.cumberland.co.uk.