"We cannot ignore its devastating impact on many peoples’ lives, from an industry perspective we often rode the rollercoaster of ups and downs, together."
With lockdown restrictions and social distancing measures likely to become a thing of the past, it’s easy to focus on the future and move away from a time that for many, caused uncertainty, upset and upheaval.
The Covid-19 pandemic will be written into history for many reasons, and while we cannot ignore its devastating impact on many peoples’ lives, from an industry perspective we often rode the rollercoaster of ups and downs, together.
The lows – such as the housing market coming to a standstill overnight, much-valued face-to-face meetings ruled out by government to protect ourselves and those around us, and a lack of product availability among many others, threw the industry curveballs none of us saw coming.
But with any challenge comes opportunity, and as a sector we’ve got so much to be proud of. We’ve all found our stride with new ways of working, but as we’re given the freedom to return to what we’re used to, I’m sure many of us will take lessons learnt into the future. Some have experienced better work life balance, saved time and money not commuting or have been more productive. Others have experienced challenges with home-schooling and childcare, missed face-to-face time with family, colleagues, clients and key stakeholders, and have realised an office environment is definitely where they want to be.
We’ve also seen technology accelerate efficiencies across the industry. On a smaller scale we’ve all benefited – and occasionally tired – from virtual catch ups, but the increased use of webchat, as another example, has meant lenders can support more brokers at once and utilise resource better. Much larger, we’ve seen widespread investment in the industry to make it easier for both lenders and brokers to do business, ultimately encouraging an even better service for clients.
At Accord, we’ve added buy-to-let into our Mortgage Sales and Origination (MSO) platform, which has allowed us to launch new propositions including top slicing, new build for landlord clients and buy-to-let lending in Scotland. It also means brokers can do both buy-to-let and residential applications with us in one place. New API technology has also been introduced which will save brokers up to 20 minutes per case by pre-populating data into our systems and removing the need to rekey information. The challenges brought about by the pandemic haven’t stalled our commitment to improve our systems and processes, it’s only confirmed how necessary the investment is.
That commitment extends to products and criteria too. Following months of low product availability in the market, particularly for borrowers with smaller deposits, we were proud to lead the market back to 95% LTV lending, and followed soon after with a return to 90% LTV for new-build houses. The mortgage market is returning to pre-Covid levels of availability thanks to support from more lenders, and we’re seeing unwavering demand from borrowers. So much so we’ve had consecutive record lending months, and I know we’re not alone.
Our approach to common-sense lending plays into that success, I’m sure, but it’s not new – it’s the way we’ve done business for years. It’s perhaps just needed more now, and in the future as we see more complex cases requiring a more flexible approach. We’ll continue to be there for brokers and their clients, lending responsibly where it makes sense to do so.
As an industry we’ve faced some of our busiest months in history, helped by the stamp duty holiday, the end of the first Help to Buy scheme, increased demand from homeowners with changing homeownership ambitions, and the introduction of the government’s Mortgage Guarantee Scheme. It’s been relentless, but it also provides a fantastic opportunity for brokers.
Borrowers' circumstances have changed, and the value of advice has never been needed more. Being able to help increasingly anxious homeowners or buyers navigate their mortgage journey won’t be forgotten. Knowing which lender will accept what type of case is invaluable at times like this, and will only reiterate the important role intermediaries play in securing new, or keeping, homes for clients. We know it’s busy for brokers too but reaching out to support clients – both new and existing – at a time they need it most will pay dividends in the years to come.
The future looks brighter than it has done for some time, but there’s no need to forget the tough ride we’ve all been on over the last 18 months. I honestly think it’s made our corner of the world stronger and accelerated positive change that will benefit lenders, brokers and clients in the long-term. The resilience the industry has shown will only set us up for whatever life throws our way next.