Mortgage rates, which recently touched a 15-year high, have cast a long shadow over the finances of potential buyers.

It is the same for existing homeowners, about 1.5 million of whom will see their current mortgage deal expire by the end of next year.

Many will have been delighted to see major lenders, including the Halifax, Nationwide, NatWest and HSBC, cutting their interest rates on new deals in recent days. Santander is following suit with a reduction on Monday.

"The cuts to fixed rates are now gathering some momentum," says David Hollingworth, from broker London and Country Mortgages. "That's good news and signals a turnaround for fixed rates after the rapid increases of recent months."

But even if this is a turning point, it is far too early to get carried away.

The average rate on a two-year fixed mortgage deal is 6.8%, according to the financial information service Moneyfacts. Despite falling from its peak, that is still only back to the level it was three weeks ago.

Moneyfacts says the typical rate for a longer five-year deal is 6.28%, around the same as a month ago.

"There is no doubt mortgage rates need to reduce a few more times before most borrowers will be happy," says Aaron Strutt, of broker Trinity Financial.