In the 2000s some British mortgage borrowers who were sold complicated
foreign currency mortgages are suffering a disadvantage with high
repayments and increasing debt because of large fluctuations in exchange
rates. The hardest hit borrowers have been those with home loans linked
to the Japanese yen which has recentlyrisen to levels not seen in over
Many experts believe that these foreign currency mortgages should never
have been sold to clients who did not fully appreciate the risks
attached to such deals and urge clients to always take professional
advice regarding foreign currency loans.
Japanese yen foreign
currency mortgages were sold in the early to mid 2000sin order for
borrowers to take advantage of the low interest rates in Japan at a time
when interest rates were not low in the UK. This meant that monthly
mortgage repayments were less expensive than for a normal UK mortgage.
In 2004the difference in yen mortgage interest rates and sterling
interest rates wasabout 5 per cent so the savings were substantial.
However, the risk associated with a mortgagesin a foreign currency is
that if the foreign currency increases in value against sterling, the
monthly repayments go up in equivalent sterling terms. In addition, the
total amount of the debt in sterling also rises.
figures that illustrate just how great this risk is show that a Japanese
yen based mortgage equivalent to 500,000 in 2004 would have increased
to a debt of 770,000 by 2009 and a staggering 855,000 by 2012 because
the yen-sterling exchange rate had risen from 200 to 117 to the pound
over that period.
Japanese yen, Swiss franc and US dollarmortgages were all sold by
well-known British banks in particular to UK expats living overseas, but
experts have argued that foreign currency mortgages are only suitable
for sophisticated investors who understand the risks. Foreign currency
mortgages can be a good solution for some high net worth clients who,
for instance,do not receive their income in sterling or who have major
assets in foreign countries. Such investors can benefit from this type
of deal but banks were selling these loans in the 2000s to less
knowledgeable investors as a means of just reducing the interest rate
payable. There was no managed multi-currency loan arrangement to hedge
the associated risks so it proved to be a highly risky strategy.
Some of the borrowers whose mortgages have been adversely affected by
the yen exchange rate rises have reported that they were not fully
warned of the dangers of such loans. Furthermore, many of them are not
covered by the UK financial services jurisdiction so cannot have their
complaints investigated by the UK’s financial ombudsman.
net worth mortgage experts believe that foreign currency mortgages are
harder to obtain now than they were 10 years ago but many banks still
offer this facility in the UK. Anyone considering such a home loan
should take professional advice from a high value mortgage broker with
experience in this type of lending and ensure they fully understand the
risks before agreeing to such a loan.