Despite this sometimes being the case in the past, the market has evolved significantly to make it easier for those with a self-employed status or irregular income to obtain a mortgage.
In fact, catering for the borrowing needs of the self-employed has become vitally important as this demographic represents a strong proportion of UK population. This was highlighted in April 2022 figures from Statista which showed that there were approximately 4.21 million self-employed people in the UK.
Traditionally, a self-employed status has been commonly used to refer to freelancers, contractors and sole traders, yet it can also extend to company directors, individual partners and anyone not in a salaried employee position. In addition, the emergence of the gig economy – where people earn an income per project or task – means that those earning multiple incomes can also fall under the self-employed umbrella.
And this is an area which is enjoying an impressive growth spurt.
According to ‘Fuelling the Global Gig Economy’, a report produced by Mastercard, an estimated 7.25 million are predicted to be working in the UK gig economy by the end of 2022. Which means that understanding and catering for this growing demographic is more important than ever.
For intermediaries looking to secure a mortgage for a self-employed client, one of the most important elements to consider is whether a lender can assess each application on its own merits rather than adopting a one-size fits all approach. This is because the fluctuating nature of self-employed income levels means no two applicants are the same, so tailored individual underwriting rather than the use of a blanket automated underwriting system can prove crucial.
In many cases, the mortgage products on offer to self-employed clients are to the same as those for employed borrowers: it’s how the loans are assessed that varies.
Different companies have varying strategies on managing balance sheets, cash flow and the distribution of profits and dividends, which is why individual assessment by the lender is necessary. A manual underwriting process can provide lenders with the ability to look beyond a more ‘basic’ overview of incomes and creditworthiness for such borrowers.
Affordability is all about what the future will look like based on past performance and this is an area where specialist lenders and such an approach can make a real difference.
Traditionally, two to three years’ worth of audited accounts were required on application, with net profits and director’s remuneration plus dividends considered as income for those running a limited company.
However, different lenders have differing approaches. For example, at Foundation Home Loans, we consider a minimum of one year’s accounts, and where a company director owns 20 per cent or more of the company shares, they will be classed as self-employed.
Mortgages for the self-employed are a particularly important area for brokers to market because of the lingering misconceptions around them. In our own borrower survey, 62 per cent said they believed it was significantly more difficult to secure a mortgage as a self-employed person, although only 14 per cent had been turned down because of it.
A range of competitive and responsible lending options remain available to this essential component within the UK work force. It will be mortgage intermediaries who open those doors for those clients the specialist lending marketplace who will continue to lead the way in delivering the types of solutions which can make a real difference for the self-employed population.