Warning for homeowners with interest-only mortgages

Laura Kuenssberg

Former Business Editor

The FCA report is bad news for homeowners with interest-free only mortgages. Credit: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

We already know that billions of pounds have been wiped off the value of families' homes since the credit crunch. Only really in the southeast of England have properties edged back to the prices they were at before.

But a major report published today exposes a further problem - that many of us may never be able to pay off the homes we are already in.

The FCA, the new authority looking after consumers' treatment at the hands of banks and building societies, reveals today that nearly half of all householders with interest-only mortgages simply won't have the cash to pay for the roof over their head.

It is almost impossible to get an interest-only mortgage now. But around one in three homeowners signed up to one in the past, and they gained massive popularity in the years before the crisis.

Interest-only deals allowed people to borrow more because the only charge was the cost to service the loan, i.e. pay the interest. Buyers were meant to save separately so that they could afford to pay off the actual debt at the end of the deal.

  • Watch: Financial Conduct Authority chief executive Martin Wheatley:

But many expected a never-ending rise in property value would take care of the long-term costs. Or frankly, many people just did not plan very far in advance.

The good news is that the FCA has found that a majority of people do have some kind of plan in place to be able to pay the cost of their home in the long term. But worryingly for nearly half, the FCA found that they simply will not have enough.

The problem is particularly acute for people whose mortgage deals run out in the next seven years.

The FCA is so concerned that they are asking every mortgage provider to write to their interest-only clients, urging them to check their situation, and make better preparations to save. The authorities want to prevent many families defaulting on their mortgage and potentially losing their home in future.

But with money tight, many families affected may find it very hard to put any extra cash aside.

Read: Mortgage 'wake up call'.