In the last 3 to 5 years we have seen rises of up to 450% in the exit fees charged by lenders when borrowers redeem their mortgage. But at last the Financial Services Authority (FSA) ha seen the light and is going to crackdown on these increases.

Lenders have been telling new borrowers about the exit fees currently charged, but the lender has retained the right to increase those charges at any time and without advising borrowers. This amounts to a free hand to increase these charges and many lenders have taken the opportunity gladly.

Take the Woolwich for example; they’ve increased their exit fee from what was �95 to �275. The Cheltenham & Gloucester has increased theirs from �50 to �225. The lenders have clearly been trying to penalise those of us who regularly switch their mortgage to get the best interest rates � the so called rate tarts � and at the same time line their coffers.

However, the FSA is now in talks with the mortgage lenders to bring them to heal. The FSA wants fees to be fully disclosed at the outset and for the disclosed exit fee to be fixed for the duration of the mortgage. The FSA hopes to have agreed a binding undertaking from the lenders by June this year.

On a wider front, borrowers should always remember to take into account all the charges and money saving offers when working out which mortgage is cheapest for them.

To illustrate this point, let’s say you wanted a 2-year fixed rate mortgage and were attracted by the offers from the Northern Rock and the Halifax.

Northern Rock currently charges an interest rate of 4.19% plus a 1.5% arrangement fee and an exit fee of �250. Halifax’s interest rate is 4.39% with an arrangement fee of �499 and exit fee of �175. Within Halifax’s package there’s also a free valuation and free conveyancing that typically could save around �750. So which mortgage deal is the cheapest?

Taking a 25 year repayment mortgage for �100,000 and costing it over the first two years with redemption at the end of the second year, The Northern Rock comes out at �14,671. The Halifax comes out at �807 cheaper at �13,864. And this saving doesn’t take into account the extra �750 valuation and legal savings offered by the Halifax. Therefore, assessed on this basis, the 4.39% headline rate offered by the Halifax is in fact the cheaper deal.

Another issue that will affect the true cost of your mortgage is whether the interest is charged on a daily, monthly or annual basis. On an otherwise like for like basis, annually calculated interest will always work out more expensive because for 11 months of the year, you are charged interest on money you have already repaid.

The best advice is to read all the small print! And remember that the lenders use all sorts of words to describe charges – application, arrangement, reservation, booking, completion and early redemption are all words to described charges or fees. Keep your eyes skinned!

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