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Is it better to get a longer mortgage?

Jenni Hill
Last Updated 29 May 2024

With rising property prices and higher mortgage rates, many first-time buyers are turning to longer mortgage terms in a bid to get on the ladder. In fact, there’s been a recent surge in mortgage terms that go beyond the state pension age, particularly among the under-30s. More than a million people who’ve taken out a mortgage in the last three years won’t have paid off their debt by the time they reach state pension age.

If you’re hoping to buy a home soon, the rise in longer mortgages might have you wondering if it’s better to get a longer mortgage than a shorter one. Let’s take a look at how long a mortgage can be and whether it’s a good idea to spread your debt over a long period of time or go for the traditional 25-year term.

In this guide

Can a mortgage be longer than 30 years?

Yes, a mortgage can be longer than 30 years. In fact, mortgages of 35 and 40 years are becoming increasingly common, largely due to rising property prices and higher mortgage rates. In 2005, the average mortgage term for a first-time buyer was just under 26 years. By the end of 2022, this had risen to 31 years. Opting for longer mortgage terms has helped first-time buyers facing higher interest rates make mortgage repayments more affordable by spreading their mortgage debt over a longer period. While this means your monthly costs are more affordable, in the long run you’ll pay more interest to your lender on your debt.

Learn more: What to do in the 6 months before buying a home

How long can a mortgage be?

The maximum mortgage term you can get in the UK is 40 years, but this length of mortgage term won’t be offered by all lenders as they are a fairly new phenomenon. The other thing to keep in mind is lenders will take your age into account when deciding whether to offer you a longer mortgage. 

Lenders used to be reluctant to offer long mortgage terms to those who’d retire before their debt was paid off. This was due to concerns that borrowers would struggle to keep up with their repayments in retirement. But as property prices have risen and homeownership has become harder to achieve, lenders are more likely to offer 40-year terms to younger borrowers. 

Learn more: Buying a house timeline

You might also like: What to look for when viewing a house

Long vs short term mortgage: Which is best?

The best mortgage term for you will depend on your age, priorities, and what you can afford. Spreading your mortgage over 30 or 40 years can make your mortgage payments more affordable. This can make it easier to manage your expenses and avoid financial difficulties. If you have a high household income or you need a relatively small mortgage, a shorter term could save you thousands of pounds in interest, as with a longer mortgage you’ll pay more interest overall. 

You’ll also become debt-free sooner, which could be particularly helpful if you’re getting close to retirement or you have other financial commitments. The downside of a shorter-term mortgage is that your monthly repayments will be higher than if you spread the loan over a longer period of time. 

To make the best of both worlds, look for a lender who’ll let you overpay a percentage of your mortgage balance each year without incurring early repayment charges (we can help you find the right one!). When you overpay your mortgage, you’re essentially paying off some of your mortgage debt early. This reduces the amount of interest you owe by making your debt smaller, which helps you become mortgage-free sooner.

Learn more: Should I pay back my mortgage early?

30 vs 40 year mortgage: Which should I pick?

If you’re trying to decide between a 30 or 40 year mortgage term, it’s a good idea to do some quick calculations to get a rough idea of how much each term would cost you, and if you are eligible for terms this long. Most lenders offering 30-40 year mortgages have a maximum age limit of 70-75 years old, although some go up to 80 years old. This means to qualify for a 40 year mortgage, the oldest applicant on the mortgage has to be no older than 30-35, or 40-35 for a 30 year mortgage.

Terrible with numbers? Compare today’s mortgage interest rates for different term lengths with this tool. Or to see personalised rates, create a free mortgage recommendation using our unique Fact Find.

Here’s a quick example of the difference in costs between a 30 and 40-year mortgage:

Let’s imagine you borrow £200,000 at 4.5% with a 30-year term. Your repayments will be £1,013 a month and you’ll pay £164,649 in interest over the course of your mortgage.

Now let’s imagine you borrow the same amount at the same interest rate but over a 40-year term. Your repayments will fall to a more manageable £899 a month, but this time you’ll pay £231,348 in interest overall. 

That means the 40-year mortgage is £66,699 more expensive than the 30-year mortgage! Plus, by year 30 on the 40-year mortgage, you’ll still have £86,727 left to pay, whereas if you’d chosen the shorter term you’d have cleared your debt.

You may decide that the longer term and additional interest is worth it. For many borrowers (particularly first-time buyers), the interest on a longer mortgage can be a small price to pay for their own home. Plus, longer mortgage terms can be a way to make repayments more affordable in the short term - you can always remortgage later down the line to a mortgage deal with a shorter term.

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At Tembo, we specialise in helping buyers make home happen sooner. When you create a free mortgage recommendation with us, our smart tech will compare your eligibility to thousands of mortgage products in seconds. At the end, we’ll show you all the ways you could buy, including ways to boost your budget.

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