"Early indicators are that there are signs of life in the property market and that bridging lending is proving to be a very valuable and flexible tool for homebuyers and property investors."
We spoke to James Bloom, divisional director at Alternative Bridging Corporation, about the importance of long-lasting relationships and why the market will emerge stronger from Covid-19.
FR: What has been the biggest impact of Covid-19 on your business?
Never before has it been known for a government to deliberately limit all economic activity as it, understandably, has to combat this pandemic and one of the biggest impacts has been the speed at which we have had to adapt to such a rapidly changing situation. For example, within days of the lockdown, we introduced new processes to enable us to continue to provide new lending throughout the pandemic, with tools such as video link technology on Microsoft Teams, Zoom and WhatsApp to carry out face-to-face conversations with brokers and clients.
We have also needed to be conscious that it’s not just us having to adapt, but that intermediaries and customers have also faced a very challenging situation, particularly in the short-term market where borrowers have approached the end of their term. So, we have had to be very proactive in engaging our brokers and their clients in an open and constructive dialogue about longer term solutions.
I think we have emerged the stronger for it, with closer relationships with our partners and new ways of working that will prove beneficial in the long run.
FR: How well has the market adapted to the outbreak and what measures do you think have been the most successfully implemented?
In general lenders and brokers have adapted remarkably well in the face of unprecedented challenges, using technology to enhance communication with brokers and customers. There are exceptions of course, and we have heard stories from brokers in the short-term market about lenders that are perhaps less experienced in dealing with such a challenging set of circumstances, have closed off avenues of communication and tried to stick to a rigid approach to the loans on their books. I think that has provided a reminder to brokers about the importance of choosing their lenders carefully.
FR: How has the pandemic highlighted the importance of technology in the mortgage market?
The lockdown has turbo-charged the rate of change when it comes to the use of technology. I think we would have seen a gradual shift to greater use of video conference and remote valuations for example, but this situation has bumped everyone out of their comfort zone and forced them to look at a new way of doing things.
FR: The property market is likely to look quite different as things slowly return to normal, what changes do you think we can expect to see?
Nobody knows what shape this recovery is going to take and how quickly consumer confidence will return. But early indicators are that there are signs of life in the property market and that bridging lending is proving to be a very valuable and flexible tool for homebuyers and property investors. We were busy throughout the lockdown but have seen a real uplift in enquiries since the lifting of restrictions on estate agents and surveyors.
FR: What is the main thing you’ve learnt since the lockdown period was implemented?
The current situation has reinforced lessons that we have learned over 30 years of supporting brokers in this market, and that is the importance of long-lasting relationships, clarity, certainty and trust. In a booming market, these characteristics can seem less important, but success bridging lending always ultimately comes down to delivering these to brokers.
FR: What positives can the industry take forward from its response to Covid-19?
I think we will see a return to common sense-based lending with a greater appreciation of building a sustainable market and partnerships for the long-term. Trust and loyalty will come to the fore when it comes to the relationship between brokers and lenders. Having been through this incredibly difficult period, brokers will have first-hand knowledge of the importance of working in partnership with lenders with whom they can trust to provide clarity and certainty. This will encourage an honest and sustainable way of working, and that can only be a good thing.