"It is encouraging to see that despite more than half of our surveyed mortgage brokers finding the pandemic hard, they stated their outlook to be optimistic for the future."
As part of its Thrive Campaign, Crystal has explored how these impacts of the pandemic may cause consumer behaviour and market shifts over the next 12 months.
In its survey of over 150 brokers, 52% said keeping a work/life balance had been their biggest struggle during the pandemic, with 66% of mortgage brokers working more than 45 hours per week mid-pandemic. Mental health was the third biggest challenge at 32%.
Positively, 88% of mortgage brokers expect to see excellent or marginal growth in the next 12 months.
Although boosted by the stamp duty deadline extension earlier in the year, a new second wave of demand is expected as the ‘race for space’ continues with buyers still prioritising permanent home offices, larger outside space and more rural or coastal areas.
Crystal also asked mortgage brokers what their preferred modes of communication would be post-pandemic. 67% said phone calls, 57% said face-to-face, and 56% said virtual meetings, suggesting a step towards a blended style of communication, where virtual still plays a large part.
Self-service and automated chatbot tools will continue to become more common place in the finance industry, with 18% of mortgage brokers saying these tools were now their preferred method of communication.
75% of brokers said having good product criteria knowledge was the most important skill for the next 12 months and 31% said that having the ability to promote themselves and increase their own visibility is essential.
40% of brokers surveyed said one of the biggest challenges in their role was keeping up with government schemes and changes and 30% said lack of housing stock.
Despite lack of housing stock being cited as a reason for the declining volume of purchase transactions during Q3 of 2021, Crystal's consumer survey found that 49% of UK adults believe they will either remortgage or move home within the next 12 months.
Those in the 25-34 age bracket are most likely to be looking for consolidation of their debt in the next 12 months (12%).
When asked about the top three growth opportunities in 2022, brokers said specialist residential (62%) followed by specialist buy-to-let (60%) and specialist bridging (30%).
Emma Cox, sales director at Shawbrook Bank, said: “Digital technologies are revolutionising the mortgage market and changing the face of our industry. The pandemic has accelerated digital first technology and has ushered in a new era of tech savvy borrowers. By harnessing the benefits of a digitised mortgage journey, brokers can expect an enhanced user experience with flexible methods of communication, a simplified application process requiring minimal data input.
“Lending decisions can also be based on increased intelligence and insights, as well as expert underwriting providing consistent outcomes for borrowers executed in ‘real time’, speeding up application to completion."
Adrian Moloney, sales director at OSB Group, said: “Applications with less than perfect credit profiles or self-employed workers who have mixed income streams are basically a specialist lender’s bread and butter. Borrowers harshly effected by Covid may find it challenging to find a friendly face on the high street and this is where specialist lenders come in as not only do we understand these challenges, we have the expertise, experience and product range to tailor-make solutions."
Vikki Jefferies, propositions director at Primis, added: “Brokers should focus on their existing customers in the first instance. A record level of maturities are expected in 2022 so there has never been a better time to retain customers and find them the best deal to suit their circumstances.
"Aside from this, brokers should be seeking opportunities that sit outside of the mainstream purchase market. Given the economic climate, a real shift in customer circumstances and the impending retreat of Help to Buy there will be significant pockets of customers who will absolutely need the expertise and advice from their broker.
"Brokers should therefore upskill and strategically ensure a proposition of depth is at their disposal and is understood clearly so the full scale of opportunity can be embraced for both themselves and their clients.”
Jo Breeden, managing director at Crystal, concluded: "It is encouraging to see that despite more than half of our surveyed mortgage brokers finding the pandemic hard, they stated their outlook to be optimistic for the future.
"The mortgage industry has an opportunity to thrive in the fertile landscape ahead. It also presents us with the chance to extend a helping hand to those who have experienced hardships in the pandemic through tailor-made financial solutions.
"Mortgage brokers and lenders alike have the ability and responsibility to help customers re-build after the crisis. Together, we can act as the lighthouse to help those who still find themselves on stormy seas trying to navigate to the shore.
"A beacon which comes in the form of expert guidance, innovative digital customer journeys, and bespoke financial products that generously and sensitively take into consideration the unique circumstances consumers find themselves in."