"There have actually been positives to come out of this pandemic situation."
FR: What does your role as business support manager entail?
I look after the admin team which is described by our financial services director John Doughty as the engine room of the New Build division. Essentially, we are the hub linking all parts of the business both internally and externally, from our brokers to borrowers, property developers, lenders, solicitors, estate agents and insurance companies.
FR: What does the admin team do?
We support all the brokers in Just Mortgages New Build division which includes our estate agency business, Spicerhaart’s Land and New Homes division.
Once the mortgage application has gone through we take over from the broker and progress all of the cases with the various developers, lenders and other interested parties through to completion.
We manage relationships with many different people. Our customers include not only borrowers but also developers, who we work with on a daily basis building up strong bonds with them. It’s a busy but interesting and rewarding role.
FR: What is the structure of the team?
I am supported by one senior administrator and four mortgage administrators and I’m recruiting for a seventh member of the team. Before Covid we were just four people but the New Build division is growing rapidly.
FR: How has Covid impacted on the team and the New Build division?
We used to work in an office together in Strood, Kent but since March 2020 we have all been working from home.
During the first lockdown the market was difficult, new build carried on but many developments were delayed as construction workers could not get on site. If a build is delayed then it has a knock-on effect resulting in delays in exchange of contracts and completions. This had a big impact on developer schedules and our pipeline turning. There are still some delays but things are getting back to normal.
There have actually been positives to come out of this pandemic situation. One of these has been more freedom to recruit as we are no longer confined to our local area. We look at person over postcode and one of the newer members of our team lives in Scotland.
Training new starters over Zoom also has its benefits as you are in a quiet place and don’t have office noise and distractions around you.
I am amazed at how better this team works now particularly with new people joining. Everyone gets on so well together despite some people not actually having met in real life.
FR: What have been the main challenges and how have you dealt with them?
We have had to become more organised as a team as we are not in one office. We all have our own pipelines of business and we each look after our own set of brokers but we work towards a team target based on a certain amount of exchange of contracts.
Quite often there is cross over between brokers and developments, with multiple people involved, so organising this and getting everyone to work effectively together from a distance was a challenge. But we have achieved it well by working closely as a team. As we have to work our pipelines together, it has also increased the efficiency of our teamwork.
FR: What changes have you seen in the new build housing market?
We deal with a lot of Help to Buy business but there has been a massive increase in shared ownership since March 2021. Many new build sites are building properties for shared ownership as it’s an affordable way for first-time buyers to get onto the property ladder.
The Help to Buy rules changed in April and is now open only to first-time buyers. So we are seeing people who are buying their second or even third property via shared ownership as it’s the only way they can afford to buy a new build.
Brokers used to meet borrowers on-site but that stopped with Covid although they are starting to go back to sites. However, the past 18 months have shown us that it is possible to work from home so I expect there will be a mix of both.
The new build market is busy and we are growing rapidly to cope with the pace of demand. Three years ago, we had just six mortgage advisers in the New Build division but we now have 28 and expect to reach 32 by the end of the year.
I suspect it won’t be too long before I’m recruiting an eighth member of my admin support team!