This week we’ve asked a group of industry experts to tell us about the region they work in, what makes it unique, and how they effectively serve customers in the local area.
Ansar Afsar, mortgage and insurance broker at We Know Mortgages, says that first-time buyer and new build business is booming in Manchester and that government promotion and investment in the area has helped boost prospects.
Jamie Lewis, director at Affinity Mortgages, based in Southend-on-Sea, says that a thorough understanding of the town and the types of buildings within it means that the firm is well positioned to serve customers’ varying needs.
Elaine Kellington, mortgage and protection adviser, Mortgage Advice Bureau, Scotland, discusses the importance of a good relationship with lenders’ local BDMs.
We’re based in the centre of Manchester, one of the most diverse cities – and city centres – in the UK. Student properties, luxury apartments, terraced homes, huge detached properties and council estates are all within close proximity. Because of this we deal with a huge variety of clients on a daily basis.
Our most common clients are first-time buyers with a deposit range from 5% to 25%. Average house prices here are around £190,000 for a three bed home and a £170,000 for a flat – the city centre is awash with relatively new apartment blocks and many first timers, particularly those in their twenties and early thirties are looking to buy a flat.
Over recent years there’s been a huge demand for South Manchester properties in particular Didsbury, Chorlton, Sale, Worsley areas. We give clients a head start on costs and options; and make sure they’re are ready to offer on a property.
I rely heavily on the trade press for keeping up to date with industry news but the most effective way to stay connected with the key players in the mortgage sector – when you’re not based in London – is to attend regional events. We were at the recent Financial Services Expo in Manchester which gave us a great opportunity to chat to lenders and also to make some good industry contracts.
Manchester is a major city – and with the Northern Powerhouse initiative and HS2 it will only grow in significance – we don’t have much trouble getting BDMs to come and chat to us.
As for lender offering, it’s a shame the Help to Buy mortgage guarantee scheme is coming to an end as this was a huge help to buyers. To be fair more lenders are now offering 95% mortgages and hopefully this continues. Like most brokers I think, regardless of location, I’d like to see more done to help first timers get onto the property ladder, in particular single applicants and those trying to access shared ownership/equity schemes.
Affinity Mortgages is based in central Southend-on-Sea, and we are very fortunate to live in the original high street, occupying a stunning grade 2 listed building.
The properties in this part of Essex date back to the turn of the century, with the majority of the properties we deal with being built circa 1930. In the 1980s many of these large older houses were turned into apartment blocks due to the size of the buildings, and a large detached house could be turned into four or five flats. Moving up to modern day with two train links into London, and two main roads all of which should deliver the commuter to London within the hour, Southend-on-Sea has become a very popular commuter town.
So stunning older properties, with links into central London in 45 minutes, and all the fun of the seaside.
We as a brokerage understand that the market is fast-paced and we have positioned ourselves next to the area’s leading independent estate agents, who fuel our business with clients who are actively looking to procure their mortgages, and also looking to simplify this process.
Having a knowledge of the properties and the town, as a collective, is imperative – knowing properties built 100 years ago and the many issues our clients may face (leases, freeholders, damp, timber, movement due to clay sub soils) means we are very strong in our area.
I think our lending partners know this little bit of the country quite well, but a very large rental sector in the town has been forced ‘against the wall’ due to the lenders changes in criteria surrounding rental coverage, and the changes to the tax situation which may well see a flood of properties coming to market – time will tell.
The clients I work with are, in the main, either first time buyers, those looking to downsize or release equity from their property. Despite many people being happy to arrange their mortgage online or by phone there is still very definitely a place for face-to-face business. This is particularly true in my local area in the South of Scotland, where gaining clients’ trust is a key part of building long-term relationships.
An increased complexity in client lifestyles and borrowing needs, coupled with a diverse range of employment contracts means that it’s important that we understand criteria changes in the industry. These complexities do of course mean that it’s much more advantageous for a client to arrange their mortgage through a reputable broker rather than going direct to a lender.
A broker’s relationship with lenders’ BDMs is crucial in order for them to maintain product and industry knowledge and understand criteria changes. Keeping abreast of lenders is not always practical face-to-face and the increased use of digital communication is making this easier and more productive. The most important contact with lender BDMs is when there is an issue during processing, their input can be vital in reaching a quick resolution and securing a positive outcome.