Research from Masthaven Bank has found that the COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped demand from borrowers.
The survey of 265 intermediaries found that customers’ priorities when looking for both lenders and types of property changed significantly over the course of 2020.
Flexible lending criteria is now a bigger priority for customers than before the start of the pandemic, according to 79% of brokers.
Other factors which have significantly increased in importance are customer service (63%), speed (60%) and flexible product features (55%).
Conversely, 56% of brokers said that low rates are no more important now than before COVID-19 and 54% said the same about low fees.
This emphasis on the importance of flexible lending criteria could be attributed to the fact that 92% of brokers said that their customers had been negatively financially impacted by COVID-19 in the second half of 2020.
Over a quarter of brokers (26%) say they expect to see more business in 2021 from borrowers who have been financially impacted by COVID-19, whether that involved taking out a mortgage payment deferral, being furloughed or being put on the government jobs support scheme.
An additional 20% said they expected to see more business from borrowers with an impaired credit history.
The research also highlights changing attitudes among customers when looking to move home, with 57% of brokers saying that homebuyers are now prioritising bigger houses to allow space for home offices and a third saying that their customers were prioritising a move out of a city to a quieter area.
Close to a third of brokers (32%) said that more outdoor space was the priority for their customers.
Rob Barnard, director of intermediaries at Masthaven, said: “The coronavirus has affected every aspect of our lives for almost a full year now and looks likely to remain with us for a while longer.
“It’s perhaps no surprise then that borrowers have re-evaluated what is important to them when it comes to seeking out mortgage providers and the homes that they live in.
“Clearly the fact that many people were forced to stay home for extended periods of time and adapt their houses into offices, gyms or schools, has brought into clearer perspective what they really want when it comes to property.
“This once in a lifetime event could have a long-term impact on the UK’s property industry.
“Borrowers have also been clear about what they want from lenders. With so many being impacted by the pandemic, customers are looking for lenders who have a flexible approach and can meet their needs.
“The stamp duty holiday deadline has also undoubtedly increased demand for speedier transactions, while customer service, which has always been a crucial part of any business, has taken on new importance and become an essential duty for lenders. It’s important that lenders listen to their customers and adapt accordingly.”