What do banks want when you apply for a mortgage?

Sometimes I ask the folks in the office about the questions they are asked by clients they are dealing with at the time, often it will result in comments like ‘the usual’… ‘How much can I borrow? What’s the best rate etc.’ and while that is true, another question often asked is one that is implied but not directly a question.

‘What do banks want from me when I am making a mortgage application?’

The answer, in the sense of principles, is that that they are looking for a way of determining your ability to repay a debt, some mathematics is used, some gut instinct often plays a part too, qualitative is mixed with quantitative.

Banks use different general mortgage calculators and these use your financial information to give different brackets of lending outcomes. In looking at your p60 they try to establish a year on year figure for your earnings, if you got a raise in the interim (if you did recently you are a rarity!) then …

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The tax of Regulation

It is worth noting that the constant calls for ‘Regulation’ are partly flawed, on one hand we do need more regulation, such as regulation of our Government agencies who can’t control their spending, regulation and accountability of our regulator, and of course (most importantly), some regulation of central banks who’s ability to keep rates too low and aid in the creation of money is closely linked with every major boom/bust in the last 100 years.

However, further regulation on financial services companies, and in particular small financial companies is not going to achieve the very aim it sets out to do, namely that of protecting consumers. It would be far better to have an ombudsman and regulator with teeth than to look for more laws that can be broken without retribution [in this respect banks have broken strict rules with almost total impunity].

Financial services are also a zero VAT business, this means that while we pay 21.5% VAT for everything we receive, we cannot charge VAT to our clients, thus, all of our …

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The numbness of the bottom

When bad news stops having an effect then it is a sign that we may be approaching the bottom, if that bottom is an L shape or a U shape is down to how the crisis continues to pan out. However, the acceleration of the decline has been so rapid that unlike the depression, we are seeing wealth wiped out much faster, in the late 20’s early 30’s the drop in the Dow went from 343 to 71 over the course of three years, today the Dow went from 14,000 to 6,900 in just over a year. That same 50% drop took more than a year and a half from 29′ to 31′ (the crisis accelerated after that). However, an important difference between now and then is that the state sponsored institutions didn’t exist, such as state supported medical care and social welfare.

Bearing this in mind what can we determine of the near term future? For a start, bad news is no longer effecting share prices the way they normally would, a …

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Some past market performance figures

Naturally past economic cycles don’t tell us exactly what will happen in the future, but as Mark Twain once said ‘history doesn’t repeat itself but it does rhyme’. And for that reason it is worth looking at some key figures from the past, showing that often the gains in bull markets are all found at the cusp of a bear market.

The stock market generally reacts before consumers and the real economy do and equally it will generally see recovery before them as well. Taking a view of the 20th century markets we can see the following:

In the recession of 1926 to 1927 the market increased by 41%. The years of 1933 to 1937 saw some of the most impressive gains ever in the S&P 500. The eight month recession of 1945 saw markets rise 19.5%, the eleven month recession of 1948-49 saw the markets go up 15.2%. Again in 1953-1954 the ten month recession ended with a market that rose 24.2%.

Any reader will note that much of these ‘gains’ did …

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