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Switching The Currency of Your Mortgage

For many property investors in the UK 'the noughties' will be known for one thing only...'Swissgate'.

When they first appeared at property shows in the UK six or seven years ago, the sales pitch for a multi-currency mortgage was quite alluring. Not only could the sizeable mortgage debt on your home be transferred into a different currency (laughably described by some as 'spreading the risk'), but you could benefit from much lower mortgage repayments if your debt was switched to a currency where the base rate was much lower than in the UK (at the time Bank of England base rates were around 5%).

The theory is that with the extra saving of 2-3% per year, (or up to 5% per year if converted to Japanese Yen), from lower mortgage payments, you pay down the mortgage debt and hopefully the currency that your mortgage debt is held in falls in value also, allowing you to pay off your mortgage much faster when it is eventually converted back into Sterling. In effect the homeowner allows the multi-currency mortgage firm to trade different currencies in the hope that they will quickly reduce the borrower's debt. So how did they get on?

Well, in 2008 'the shiznits hit the fan' with regards to that plan as Sterling crashed in value, automatically increasing the value of a mortgage held in another currency. Some of the firms offering this service have gone bust as a result.

One company that is still active is The ECU Group, which has dominated the multi-currency mortgage market in the UK since its launch in 1988. Over the company's first 21 years the group's performance was impressive, reporting that a £1m loan would have been reduced to less than £180,000 net of fees and including interest savings.

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