A changing mortgage market brings opportunity

Jeremy Duncombe

November 16, 2021

Jeremy Duncombe Accord first-time buyers

Jeremy Duncombe, managing director at Accord Mortgages

I’ve thought about the ups and downs of the last couple of years a lot recently, but whatever way you look at it, where we are today is a far cry from where at one point, we maybe thought we’d be.

Looking back to 2019, my – and many others’ – 2020 predictions mainly focused on the impact of Brexit, responding to a challenging housing market and my assumptions that new technology would continue to make its mark on the industry. Only the latter of those feels as relevant as we thought it would be.

The fallout from leaving the EU was more subdued than we’d expected, replaced instead by the arrival of COVID-19, which made for an altogether different challenge in the market to the one we were expecting.

No-one saw the pandemic coming, and even if they had, would they have correctly predicted the impact it had on the mortgage market? I’d say it’s unlikely.

Whether it was the housing market coming to a standstill overnight at the height of the first lockdown, the cliff edge created by the extended stamp duty holiday or a mortgage price war that resulted in the lowest borrowing rates on record, we’ve all been reminded to expect the unexpected and be prepared to respond to change.

That’s not necessarily new though, it’s just the pace of change has quickened. Lenders, brokers and borrowers all felt the effects of kneejerk market reactions last year, but it also presented new opportunities.

As a lender we had to make quick but considered decisions to protect ourselves and borrowers while supporting the market when service levels allowed.

This meant adjusting our product ranges and reorganising our teams overnight to deal with the fluctuating environment and accelerating our use of technology to keep up with demand.

Demand that was so high, we went on to have some of our busiest months in our history, and market transactions for the year will hit record levels.

Unlike the ebbs and flows of the market the last couple of years, I suspect we’ll start to see some more constant levels of activity through 2022, although as inflationary pressures continue, the market mix will probably look different to what we’ve just witnessed.

It’ll be no surprise that demand will continue to outstrip supply, but without the frenzied activity of the stamp duty holiday, there will be less urgency from buyers.

And with an expected rate rise in the near future, the focus on remortgage and product transfer markets will increase as borrowers look to secure deals while rates are low.

This is a huge opportunity for brokers, and with borrowers’ circumstances in many cases changing significantly as a result of the pandemic, the need for – and value of – advice has never been greater.

Understandably, the market is seeing more and more complex cases, and that’s unlikely to change in the coming years. That means highly skilled underwriters will need to spend more time getting to the lending decisions required, and naturally this could put pressure on lender turnaround times and the availability of teams.

However, we’ve seen widespread investment in the industry to make it easier for all of us to write business, and the more we use it the more we’re all creating capacity and better efficiencies, which ultimately improves client journeys.

The easier lenders can make it for a broker to self-serve for case updates, basic criteria questions and to pre-populate data, the sooner brokers can share outcomes with existing clients or have more time to spend with new ones.

At Accord, we’ve invested heavily in new technology to make this a possibility and we’re hearing great things from brokers who no longer have to wait in a queue to get an update because they’ve used an up-to-the-minute accurate system, or have engaged with someone on webchat who is as knowledgeable as the person they would have spoken to on the phone.

The use of technology has never been more necessary, and the pandemic only confirmed that. The pace of change I touched on earlier applies here too – tech will only become more used in our industry and the sooner we all learn to adopt it, the more rewards we’ll reap.

Let’s let technology do the heavy lifting and create time for people to do the really important bits. It’ll stand us all in good stead whenever we next have to prepare for the unexpected.

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