Research has indicated the average outstanding mortgage in the UK is now £2,000 higher than it was a year ago. In 2014 the average amount left on a mortgage was £83,000, whereas this year it has risen to £85,000. However, while the average sum has increased compared to 12 months ago, many households feel they are now in a better position to handle any potential rise in interest rates that might happen in the near future. Higher outstanding mortgage sums tempered by higher surplus income An NMG survey, completed by NMG Consulting for the Bank of England, has revealed that households are now better able to withstand any potential rise in interest rates when compared to the same time last year. A low rate of inflation, coupled with rises in wages has meant many households are better off this year. No doubt this will come as good news to those who have to meet mortgage payments every month. However, there are also signs that the austerity measures brought in by the Government to tackle the national debt are having an adverse effect on households. A 2% rise in base rates would be manageable While the research focuses on average households and sums, it does indicate the average mortgage holder could cope with increased payments if the interest rates crept up to 2%. Since this is unlikely to happen in the short-term, many mortgage holders will feel happier with their financial situation now than was the case just a year or so ago. Those with high loan-to-income mortgages are most at risk of rises While the overall picture may look rosier than it did a year ago, there are still people who are at higher risk of running into problems if interest rates did go up. First-time buyers who have a high-value loan when compared to their income are most likely to struggle when interest rates increase. Furthermore, while research found unsecured debt remained at much the same level during 2015 (at £8,000 per household on average), managing increasing mortgage payments could prove difficult for those with higher outgoings. In short, while living standards have improved during 2015, there is some uncertainty over whether the standards will continue to rise as 2016 dawns. Indeed, with interest rate rises coming up on the horizon, there is a distinct chance that households struggling to manage on their income will be further troubled in the New Year. However, some experts are calling for any rise in interest rates to be put off in the near future. Weve heard this before, but there are strong reasons to argue for this to be the case. For example, the research found that if rates were to rise, people would rein in their spending to ensure they could still meet their bills. This makes perfect sense, yet it would also stunt any growth in GDP. So it remains to be seen how things pan out in the New Year, and whether there will be any change positive or negative in the average mortgage still to be paid off for the average person.