Help to Buy completions drop 41 per cent on pre-pandemic levels

Help to Buy completions drop 41 per cent on pre-pandemic levels

 

According to figures from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), the scheme has supported the purchase of properties worth £2.5bn. The equity loans issued during the period totalled £604m. 

The scheme was revised in April last year, restricting the use of Help to Buy to first-time buyers only and regional price caps were introduced.  

The DLUHC said the price restrictions contributed to the reduction in completions across all regions except London where the limit was maintained at £600,000. 

Rhys Schofield, managing director at Peak Mortgages and Protection: “It’s unsurprising that numbers are a bit down on 2019 as we’ve had regional price caps introduced since then and those are really starting to bite in some parts of the country. House price rises in some areas have outstripped the cap.

“With house prices growing at, say, 10 per cent a year the government is doing very well out of the scheme, too. Their value of the share they have in people’s homes has also gone through the roof.” 

The East of England and the South East saw some of the sharpest drops in completions following the new version of the scheme. The East of England reported a decline from 2,104 in Q1 2021 to 1,530 in Q2, while the South East reported a fall from 3,059 in Q1 to 2,303 in Q2. 

In London, the quarterly declines were not as severe with completions exceeding 1,000 in Q1, Q2 and Q4. 

Compared to Q3 2021, overall completions in Q4 were up by 22 per cent. 

 

Property price and type 

Price caps also inevitably reduced the average value of properties purchased through the Help to Buy scheme. 

Compared to Q1 2021, the last full quarter of the previous scheme, the mean property price was down in all regions in Q4. The largest decrease was in the North East and North West, where the mean property price reduced by 30 per cent and 27 per cent to £161,842 and £190,867 respectively. 

The overall average value of homes purchased through the scheme in England fell from £329,254 in Q1 to £285,293 in Q4. 

Compared to previous years, 2021’s Q4 average value was down on 2020’s £320,811 and 2019’s £300,534. 

Across the whole of 2021, the average value of a home purchased using Help to Buy came to £305,669. 

There was a lower proportion of four or more bedroom properties sold under the current Help to Buy scheme, which the DLUHC said was expected due to the lower proportion of detached properties purchased. 

Some eight per cent of properties sold had four or more bedrooms compared to 28 per cent under the scheme in 2016.  

Meanwhile, the proportion of two-bedroom properties purchased rose to 32 per cent under the current scheme compared to 22 per cent under the previous scheme.  

 

Deposit and income 

The average household income for those using Help to Buy in Q4 2021 was £54,309, up from £53,831 in Q3. 

For London-based purchasers, this was pegged at £68,245 in Q4 up from £67,108 in Q3. For buyers in England excluding London, this was nearer to the overall England average, with typical household incomes of £51,972, almost flat on £51,330 in Q3. 

Compared to previous years, the overall average household income was higher in Q4 2020 at £61,874 and in 2019 was £57,570. 

In total, the average income for those using Help to Buy in 2021 came to £58,169, down on £60,781 in 2020. 

The average deposit percentage for the new version of the scheme was lower than the previous version across all regions. The DLUHC said this suggested Help to Buy was being used by more people who had smaller savings. 

Additionally, the size of the deposit has fallen compared to the older version of the scheme. 

For example, buyers in the South West put down an average 10 per cent deposit in Q1 last year, equivalent to £31,813, but in Q4 this dropped to a nine per cent deposit worth £22,106. 

In the North East, this fell from an eight per cent deposit worth £20,539 in Q1 to a seven per cent deposit worth £11,386 in Q4. 

London saw the smallest difference, likely due to the maintained price cap, with an average deposit percentage of nine per cent worth £41,256 in Q1 2021, to nine per cent in Q4 worth £40,275. 

Stuart Powell, managing director of Ocean Mortgages, said homebuyers were being more creative with deposit raising.

He added: “Rather than entering a government-run scheme that shares in the growth of their property value, buyers are turning to ‘The Bank of Mum and Dad’, or ‘Nan and Grandad’ to fund their deposits. During 2021 and the first quarter of 2022, equity release experienced a growth boom, a significant portion of which was used for house deposits. This has become a viable alternative to Help to Buy and partly explains the reduction in Help to Buy loans.”

 

Government and developers reaping gains

From the scheme’s introduction in 1 April 2013 to 31 December 2021, 355,634 properties have been bought with a Help to Buy equity loan.  

The total value of these equity loans so far totals £22bn while the value of properties stands at £99bn.  

Paul Neal, equity release and mortgage adviser at Missing Element Mortgage Services, said it would be interesting to see the change in the value of loan repayments. 

He added: “I had a client this week who originally borrowed £36,000 through the scheme and over the past five years their property’s value has increased and now they have to pay back £48,000. That’s £12,000 over a five-year period. Now, times that by 355,634 properties and that will fund a lot of parties in Downing Street in the coming years.” 

Lewis Shaw, founder of Shaw Financial Services, added: “With rates rising, incomes stagnating, and a lot of Help To Buy loans maturing this year, and for the next couple, many borrowers could find they aren’t in a position to remortgage and pay off the government loan. This will mean one of two things: either sell up and move somewhere else or get stuck paying interest on the Help to Buy element until they can repay that debt.  

“The only people that have really benefitted are developers and their shareholders in bumper dividend payouts and the government who have piggy-backed on soaring property prices rises which they engineered themselves. Or maybe I’m just too cynical.” 

Habito and Perenna say current affordability stress test and LTI limit ‘not fit for purpose’

Habito and Perenna say current affordability stress test and LTI limit ‘not fit for purpose’

 

The Bank of England launched a consultation on withdrawing the affordability stress test earlier this year, which states that lenders should ensure borrowers can afford their mortgage if it is three per cent above their reversionary rate.

It said that it would keep the LTI limit, which outlines how much a borrower can borrow relative to income. It typically stands at 4.5 per cent, though lenders can extend this to 15 per cent with new mortgage lending.

The measures were introduced in 2014 by the Bank of England’s Financial Policy Committee (FPC) to strengthen mortgage underwriting standards and guard against increased household debt.

The firms said that current measures were “not fit for purpose when viewed against customer needs”.

They explained that a review of the loan to income (LTI) flow ratio would give specialist lenders opportunities to develop products for underserved markets for those who may need high LTV and LTI products, such as first-time buyers and later life borrowers.

 

Proposed changes

 

The companies have put forward two recommendations. This includes implementing the FPC’s proposal to remove the three per cent stress test, and review the LTI ratio exemption to apply to lenders who originate at 2.5 per cent of annual gross mortgage lending

The other is to eliminate the LTI ratio completely but keep the three per cent affordability stress test for loans with a fixed rate term of five years or less.

The companies said that either action would improve competitiveness in the mortgage market, even the playing field for specialist lenders and high street lenders and improve customer choice.

Alan Fitzpatrick (pictured), vice president of lending operations at Habito, said that house prices had “increased substantially” and many prospective homeowners had not been able to keep pace as the “lending landscape hasn’t moved far enough forwards”.

He pointed to research done by the firm, which showed that 54 per cent of UK homeowners had been limited by what they could borrow for a mortgage, even if they could afford to pay more.

“Our affordability recommendations come at a time when interest rates are rising, the cost of living is top of mind and we simply need better and more sophisticated ways to help people finance their homes,” he said.

Arjan Verbeek, chief executive of Perenna, said: “We are supportive of the FPC’s focus on managing excessive leverage and their own assessment demonstrates the affordability measure alone can contribute to it.

“If we want to address today and tomorrow’s challenges with the right level of precision, we believe the LTI flow ratio needs significant amendment or even withdrawal. By doing so, the financial services sector can introduce much needed product innovation and competition.”

Virgin launches high LTVs; TSB and Platform up rates ‒ round-up

Virgin launches high LTVs; TSB and Platform up rates ‒ round-up

The new products will be available from tomorrow.

They include purchase fixed rates between 75 and 90 per cent LTV, which come with a £495 fee and £500 cashback.

The lender has also brought out 85 per cent LTV remortgage fixed rates, which come with a £1,295 fee, free valuation and free legals.

There is also a five-year fixed rate BTL deal at 75 per cent LTV and select product rates would increase.

It added that from 8pm today all 80 per cent LTV fixed rates would be withdrawn

This includes certain products between 65 and 90 per cent LTV, which will go up by 0.23 per cent. Rates begin from 2.23 per cent.

Selected BTL fixed rates between 60 and 75 per cent LTV will rise by 0.15 per cent. Rates start from two per cent.

 

TSB ups select rates and withdraws products

TSB has increased certain rates by 0.25 per cent, upped its variable rates and withdrawn select products.

In its BTL range, select five-year fixed rate house purchase and remortgage rates have gone up by 0.25 per cent.

Its five-year fixed rate for purchase and remortgage starts from 2.84 per cent and go up to 3.54 per cent.

In its residential range, the lender has increased select five-year fixed rate first-time buyer and house purchase products between 75 and 90 per cent LTV by 0.1 per cent.

Rates between 75 and 80 per cent LTV start from 2.99 per cent and go up to 3.19 per cent at 85 and 90 per cent LTV.

Its five-year fixed rates for new-build first-time buyer and house purchase rates have gone up by 0.1 per cent.

Rates begins from 2.96 per cent at 80 and 85 per cent LTV, and at 85 to 90 per cent LTV the rate is 3.09 per cent.

The lender has also withdrawn its two-year fixed rate first-time buyer, purchase and remortgage products with £995 fee.

 

Platform ups SVR, reversionary rates and tracker products

Platform has increased its standard variable rate to 5.24 per cent and upped the reversionary rate for its buy-to-let products.

Its BTL reversionary rate up to 70 per cent loan to value (LTV) is 5.5 per cent and is six per cent up to 75 per cent LTV. This applies to new business and product switch ranges.

In its product switch range, its two-year tracker mainstream products have increased by 0.25 per cent.

Natwest ups rates; Santander and Skipton increase SVRs – round-up

Natwest ups rates; Santander and Skipton increase SVRs – round-up

In its new business range, select residential purchase products have increased 0.35 per cent, including its fee-free two-year fixed rate at 60 per cent loan to value (LTV) which has gone from 2.45 per cent to 2.8 per cent.

Its five-year fixed rate at 75 per cent LTV has increased from 2.2 per cent to 2.55 per cent. It comes with a £995 fee.

On the remortgage side, rates have risen by around 0.33 per cent, including its fee-free 60 per cent LTV two-year fixed rate, which now stands at 2.73 per cent.

Its five-year fixed rate at 75 per cent LTV with £995 fee has gone from 2.27 per cent to 2.60 per cent.

Natwest’s fixed first-time buyer rates have increased by around 0.14 per cent, which includes its five-year fixed rate at 85 per cent LTV and is priced at 2.94 per cent.

Its two-year fixed rate at 85 per cent LTV has risen by 0.11 per cent to 2.89 per cent. Both come with a £995 fee and £1,000 cashback.

Shared equity rates have also been increased by as much as 0.3 per cent, including Help to Buy products.

An example includes its no-fee two-year fixed rate purchase product at 60 per cent LTV going from 2.7 per cent to three per cent.

Mortgage guarantee products have recorded a minor increase, with its two and five-year fixed rate rising by 0.07 per cent to 3.27 per cent and 3.29 per cent respectively.

On the buy-to-let side rates have gone up by as much as 0.3 per cent for both purchase and remortgage products.

An example includes its two-year fixed rate at 75 per cent LTV with no fee going from 2.74 per cent to 3.04 per cent.

Natwest’s green mortgage residential and buy-to-let products have also experienced a rise, with rate changes of up to 0.26 per cent. This includes its two-year fixed rate purchase product at 75 per cent TV with £995 fee going from 2.19 per cent to 2.39 per cent.

Cashback on its green mortgage residential products has also been removed.

In its existing customer rage, residential rate switcher products, which includes select high value deals, have been increased by up to 0.15 per cent. This includes its no-fee two-year fixed rate at 60 per cent LTV going from 2.48 per cent to 2.63 per cent.

 

Santander ups SVR rate

Santander said that mortgage products linked to the base rate would automatically change form the beginning of June. This includes those on its follow-on rate, which will rise from four per cent to 4.25 per cent.

It added that Santander and Alliance and Leicester’s Standard Variable Rates (SVR) will rise by 0.25 per cent to 5.24 per cent from the start of June.

Impacted customers will be notified of their new interest rate and monthly payment five days before changes are implemented.

Santander said tracker and reversionary rates for new business and internal transfer tracker products will rise with the base on 10 May.

 

Skipton to withdraw base rate tracker products

Skipton Building Society confirmed that those with existing mortgages that track the base rate would see their account interest rate change, depending on their product rate cap and terms and conditions.

It added that base rate tracker products would increase no later than 14 days from today.

The mutual added that existing base rate tracker product would be withdrawn from 10pm on Sunday 8 March and replaced from 9am on Monday 9 May.

Mortgage searches fall 20 per cent in April after frantic March – Twenty7Tec

Mortgage searches fall 20 per cent in April after frantic March – Twenty7Tec

According to Twenty7Tec’s monthly report for April, purchase searches accounted for 62 per cent and remortgage searches accounted for 38 per cent of overall mortgage searches.

The report noted that purchase searches had fallen by around 15.6 per cent month-on-month while remortgage searches had fallen by around a quarter.

Buy-to-let searches in April also fell by 20 per cent month-on-month.

The biggest fall in searches happened for properties valued over £1m, which fell by 16 per cent month-on-month.

The company said that just over 20 per cent of searches came from first-time buyers, which is the first time this has occurred since June 2021.

The report also found that the number of products on the market contracted by 19 per cent month-on-month, which it said was the first fall in 18 months.

The company suggested that this could be due to lenders waiting on the Bank of England’s (BoE) decision around raising interest rates, which happened today as the base rate rose to one per cent.

It added that searches for fixed, stepped, tacker capped, discount, variable and libor products all fell slightly month-on-month, but said that this could be due to frantic activity in the month prior.

The firm said that search volumes were also down across all loan to value (LTV) ranges for March and February.

The report said that whilst April saw fewer searches, the volume of ESIS documents produced “continued to be strong” with 16,306 documents products in April compared to 18,763 in March.

Searches around credit history, visas and residency and first-time buyers were the three most popular searches.

James Tucker (pictured), founder and chief executive of Twenty7Tec, said “It’s hard to determine if the changes we’ve seen in the market are due to a change in confidence, economic outlook, the upcoming Bank of England potential rate change or simply down to April having fewer working days and everyone needing a well-earned break. The next few days for the market are going to be very instructive.”

Help is wanted now from lenders on adverse credit clients – Moloney

Help is wanted now from lenders on adverse credit clients – Moloney

The UK’s service industry is crying out for staff, a fact subsequently brought home by my 45-minute wait for a club sandwich.

The record number of job vacancies nationwide has been widely reported. There were around 1.3 million vacancies in March this year according to the Office for National Statistics, but here was the proof on my own doorstep, written in black marker pen, and it got me thinking.

As we slowly make our way out of the pandemic, the “Help Wanted” plea applies to many sectors of society, including mortgage borrowers. The virus has not just damaged people’s health, it has hurt their bank accounts and credit scores, with many suffering financial damage due to being furloughed or unable to work for a period of time because they were isolating.

Since the pandemic struck, hundreds of thousands of people have missed credit payments or unsecured loan repayments, often due to circumstances completely beyond their control. Last year 848,124 county court judgments (CCJ) were registered against consumers in England and Wales, up 36 per cent from 625,901 in 2020, according to the Registry Trust.

But the size of the average CCJ, the sums of money owed, fell by eight per cent, from £1,811 in 2020 to £1,658 in 2021. This fall in debt size continued a long-term downwards trend, which started after the global financial crisis (in 2008 the average CCJ was £3,662).

When it comes to mortgage borrowers this trend is important, because it illustrates that credit records are being damaged for relatively small misdemeanours – but ones which result in mainstream lenders slamming the door on those consumers affected.

The vast majority of aspiring borrowers who either have been or would be rejected by high street banks are not serial non-payers of mortgages and other debts. Most of these would-be first-time buyers, movers and remortgagors have simply experienced blips in their finances and need a helping hand from the mortgage industry, not Hobson’s choice of a deal at seven per cent or no deal at all.

 

Mortgage advisers need lender support

Mortgage advisers understand this dilemma and are key to solving the conundrum, as it is through seeking their professional advice that today’s adverse borrowers will find the solutions they need. But advisers also need support in this endeavour.

Advisers want to help clients repair their credit status for the future, but they also want to provide them with access to a well-priced range of mortgages right now. When applying for an adverse deal, brokers need to be confident that they don’t run the risk of further bruising a compromised credit record simply by dint of applying, or being rejected.

Advisers are busy people, processing more cases in the 12 months to Q4 2021 than at any point since 2015, according to Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association. Admittedly some of that pressure was a result of the stamp duty holiday deadline, but the market remains buoyant, so the heat remains on – and adverse cases typically take longer to place than vanilla applications.

So, as lenders we need to offer advisers a robust system for finding the most appropriate mortgage for an adverse client without the need to apply multiple times.

We need to offer competitively-priced mortgages to suit a broad range of borrowers with imperfect credit records, whether they have recent CCJs, defaults, arrears or debt management plans (DMP).

We need to step up when “Help Wanted” becomes apparent. And help is wanted now.

TSB ups first-time buyer, purchase and remortgage rates

TSB ups first-time buyer, purchase and remortgage rates

The changes come into effect from today.

Its two-year fixed rate first-time buyer, purchase and remortgage rates have gone up by 0.4 per cent, with rates starting from 2.59 per cent and going up to 3.54 per cent depending on the loan to value (LTV) band.

Its three-year fixed rate for first-time buyer, house purchase and remortgage, which come with a two-year early repayment charge, has risen by 0.4 per cent. Rates begin from 2.89 per cent and go up to 3.34 per cent at the highest LTV.

The lender’s five-year fixed rate in the same range has increased by 0.3 per cent and starts from 2.79 per cent and goes up to 3.29 per cent depending on LTV.

Its five-year fixed rate for new build first-time buyer and house purchase has also gone up by 0.3 per cent, ranging from 2.84 per cent to 2.99 per cent.

TSB’s 10-year fixed rate, also for first-time buyer, house purchase and remortgage, has risen by 0.5 per cent. Rates range from 2.84 per cent to 2.99 per cent.

Generation Home hires Virgin Money’s Peter Dockar as commercial director

Generation Home hires Virgin Money’s Peter Dockar as commercial director

Dockar will oversee the development of the lender’s commercial proposition and product evolution. His key responsibilities include expanding and building on broker relationships.

He is the firm’s first commercial director and will report to chief commercial officer Graham McClelland.

Dockar was head of customer value at Virgin Money for around three years. He served as head of lending at CYBG before it was merged with Virgin Money.

He also worked at HSBC for around 12 years in various senior roles including European head of retail underwriting and UK head of mortgages.

Dockar joins John Bridgman, who was head of mortgage credit at Virgin Money, and joined the lender as head of credit earlier this year.

Will Rice, chief executive and founder of Generation Home, said: “Pete has an outstanding track record of driving growth and success in his previous roles. His buyer-first ethos mirrors that of Generation Home, making him an incredibly exciting hire. We’re delighted to have him onboard.”

McClelland added: “Pete’s experience in the mortgage industry is a valuable asset for Generation Home. His drive and enthusiasm for our business make him an excellent new addition to the team.”

Dockar said: “Generation Home is a truly innovative lender with financial inclusion at its heart. My previous experience, and conviction that home-ownership should be accessible to all who aspire to it, make this an incredible fit.”

Generation Home was launched in 2019. It is a joint borrower, sole proprietor mortgage lender that helps first-time buyers, remortgagors and homebuyers enhance their borrowing ability as friends and family can boost their funds.

It recently launched 95 per cent loan to value products in March, and received £1bn in funding from Waterfall in January.

Its products are available through TMA Club, Legal & General, MAB and Simply Biz.

Fast-moving house sales put immense time pressure on brokers – Marketwatch

Fast-moving house sales put immense time pressure on brokers – Marketwatch

This has led to record sale periods, with property being snapped up within 33 days of being on the market on average, with intermediaries left to shoulder the burden of securing a mortgage for their client before another buyer swoops in.

So, this week Mortgage Solutions is asking: Has the pressure on buyers to secure a home quickly had a knock-on effect for brokers? 

 

Dina Bhudia, CEO at P2M Asset Management

We are 100 per cent having to shuffle cases due to the pressure from urgency, and the rates ever increasing means the speed and efficiency of the application is paramount. If business development managers (BDMs) or lender telephone desks are not efficient then they are losing the applications to competitors.

The level of lending seems to outweigh the rate, buyers are needing higher income multiples to meet the higher offers to secure a home. Estate agents don’t help, many are not allowing clients to view the properties unless a decision in principle (DIP) has been evidenced, or even the clients are being cherry picked by the estate agent’s preferred advisers.

Consequently, we are having to get sellers and buyers to ensure they have provided all the documents and make decisions much quicker. Sole trader brokers who don’t have administration support may not be able to meet the increased expectations of speed, as they are having to deal with the whole process on their own.

I really wish lenders could make it easier by requesting less documents, automating initial document checks, and instruct surveys earlier on in the process, this way it keeps the estate agents at bay.

I have a great team, and we are having to prioritise and delegate, however capacity is definitely there, as using CRMs and fintech to assist with managing the process and client expectations. However some cases still need to be discussed more in the specialist world.

The difficulty is more in the remortgage process with lender solicitors, clients find the automated process very frustrating, and the legal process does not seem to be very client user friendly.

 

Alex Winn, mortgage team lead at Habito

The housing market for buyers feels fraught. We have most contact from customers, but many estate agents and brokers working in those agencies often put pressure on buyers to secure their home quickly.

We regularly hear from buyers who’ve felt pushed to use in-house broking services that work from a limited panel and charge fees, which may not be in their best interest. But, if the agent is saying speed is key in the transaction, buyers might feel like they have no time to shop around, or they’ll risk losing their dream home.

Selling quickly isn’t usually an issue; it’s finding the right property and being ready to proceed. That said, there are still limitations that we have to work with, such as solicitor or lender timescales, which typically sit outside of a broker’s influence. I’ve noticed agents can then shift their focus to the next property instruction, so because it’s a seller’s market, the amount of chasing from agents on completing sales has actually declined.

Speed is certainly the name of the game for borrowers when it comes to getting lower rates. Rapid rate changes and product withdrawals are making timings a little more challenging – lenders giving more notice on product withdrawals would be very helpful.

However, with rising product interest rates I’d expect the ‘frenzy’ may start to slow for new lending.

For brokers, remortgaging will continue to be really important as homeowners look for ways to save money on their household bills. For us at Habito, anything that makes the process slicker and removes friction for customers, as fintech does, can certainly help with speed to mortgage offer.

 

Dee Ganesharajah, senior associate at Mesa Financial 

We’ve felt the knock-on pressure immensely. Nowadays, most clients expect everything to have been done yesterday. The fear of not having their offer accepted or being gazumped seems to push buyers to offer over the odds and stretch the realms of affordability.

The knock-on effect to me as broker means coming up with a suitable option as quickly as possible. With so many brokers competing for business at the moment, speed and efficiency is everything. This means being flexible with working all hours, being clued up with lender’s service levels as well as criteria and most importantly, always managing clients expectations.

The lack of supply of houses has also affected work load, as clients keep going back and forth with different scenarios, like property values and borrowing, not to mention rates constantly changing not helping matters. This all results in us re-broking cases numerous times prior to offer.

We have seen a slightly quieter period post-Easter, with clients waiting for new properties to come on the market. I don’t think this will help the frenzy, in fact I think it will exasperate things. However, I feel that volume levels may level off, due to people’s hesitancy around the economy and geo-political issues to sell their property.

Saffron BS gross mortgage lending has ‘successful dip’ of £13.6m in 2021

Saffron BS gross mortgage lending has ‘successful dip’ of £13.6m in 2021

The mutual said this was off the back of a remarkably successful 2020 which saw its gross lending hit £253.2m amidst a busy market.

Saffron said the decline in lending was expected as part of its long-term strategy was to address the growing number of complex cases and increase focus on margins over volume lending, and a greater investment in manual underwriting.

The lender said the property market boom, boosted by the stamp duty holiday and support from the government, led to a strong 2020 but posed “an educating challenge” in 2021.

‘A successful dip’

Tony Hall (pictured), head of mortgage sales, told Mortgage Solutions: “Our lending strategy was changed in 2020-21 to move toward a specialist model focussed on margins over pure volume, making sure we’re maximising our return on capital as opposed to just lending on any level. We changed to a manual approach to underwriting to take care of people who need lender support like self-builds and the self-employed.

“There was a dip, but it was a successful dip, if that makes sense? In 2020 we also had a first-time buyer product that we did really well from, but it’s about having good value range of products in the long run.”

Colin Field, CEO, said: “To say I am delighted to have added another £243m of new mortgage origination would be an understatement. I must tip my hat to the great work of the society’s dedicated teams and their ability to adapt not just in the way they worked, but also in our range of mortgage products. This has been paramount to our success.”

The lender re-introduced its first-time buyer (FTB) at 95 per cent loan to value (LTV) in 2020, then pulled out as it reached capacity. Later in 2020 it re-entered the buy-to-let (BTL) market after it hit its regulatory buffers in November, but came back with limited company BTL lending in March 2021.

In 2021, it relaunched its 95 per cent loans for FTBs and followed that up by re-introducing its pre-pandemic 95 per cent LTV second time buyer loans. It then upped its 80 per cent LTV to 90 per cent LTV loans for self-employed and contractor one- and two-year trading loans, which Hall said “all landed us a big win.”

It is looking to re-enter more products later this year.

Field said: “To remain as competitive as possible, we managed rates efficiently. We also adjusted product criteria to ensure fairness for those impacted by the pandemic, such as the self-employed. Importantly, we have been able to enter or return to areas of the market we haven’t been in for some time, such as limited company buy to let.”

Hall said: “Our pricing is competitive and we’re seeing good volume across joint borrower, sole proprietor products to help FTBs.”

‘We are 100 per cent intermediary-reliant’

The relativity of volumes against the market size limits Saffron BS at this stage in its development, so intermediary relationships are “paramount” to its success and constitute its most valued partnerships.

Hall said: “We are 100 per cent intermediary-reliant. My role is building that relationship with key partners and every other intermediary that wants to use us.

“The big focus for us is our service and delivery – it’s as much about how easy it is to do business, not just the rate – it’s who will do the deal and how well they will support the broker and the client.

“It’s about delivering and providing a quick answer to a DiP (decision in principle), and we support their enquiries.”

Over the past 18 months, Hall’s mortgage sales team has grown “significantly” to provide improved access to its business development managers (BDMs) via phone, email and in the field.

Hall said: “We’ve grown from two and a part-timer to 11 since Autumn 2020, three of which are in the field. We’re currently recruiting another BDM but that’s it for this year, so we’re going to embed them properly before making our next move.

“We’ve got distribution in a much better place through the networks and clubs and we’re working closer with them than ever.”

Adapting to the challenges ahead

In spite of a lending decrease from 2020, the 2021 figures remain one of the best years on record for the mutual and are in line with Fields’ predictions given the impact of Covid-19.

Field said: “The economic impact on the society from reduced interest rates significantly impacted our bottom line. Our underlying business remained strong and the impact was an expected one-off for the business, which our end-of-year results prove as we report growth in profitability in line with post-pandemic results.”

Hall added: “We’ve got a big product development map but we’re tracking where we are at this stage as we’re in the middle of a core system upgrade which limits our ability to launch new products, but we’re planning to be in as many specialist markets as possible as we go.

“That said, we’re still focussed on the residential and buy-to-let space and we’ve got products for both markets, and the appetite to launch a new product and support new markets wherever we can – if we can support it, we are heading for it.”

Although cautiously optimistic about the year ahead, Field said there are still many hurdles to navigate in the current economic climate.

He said: “Saffron will continue to adapt to the challenges that arise. We will focus on lessening the financial impact on our members and assisting as many people as we can to understand, manage, and improve their financial wellbeing and promote money happiness. Something we all deserve.”