Mortgages are not a service we provide at Thameside but, as a consumer myself, I feel qualified to make observations.
My current experience of mortgage lending and the housing market as a whole is less than comfortable.
I have a problem with underwriting – not that lenders feel the need to do so but with the way they do it and the information they glean from potential borrowers to establish whether someone is fit to service, let alone pay back, a loan.
Take my own situation. I have never earned more than I am now. I have never had more savings than I have now and am in the middle of a frugal phase of life with two very young children and a wife who earns modestly, by choice.
We have decided to stay put in our unassuming house, with a loan to value of 40 per cent.
I have two endowments due to mature, for better or worse, in 2013 and 2014 and I do not have a passion for expensive hobbies or branded champagnes. Call me boring but do not call me an unacceptable risk.
But that is what my lender has done. It has decided as I am half-owner of a four-year-old business which keep its profits low by paying bonuses to staff, they could not possibly consider me for a home improvement loan.
They seemed happy to accept my word we spent what we did on running our lives but when it came to understanding how we run the business, they had such little grasp of the issues it rendered the exercise laughable.
I sent them bank statements, policy documents, builders’ quotes, the lot. But all they seemed to care about was rejecting what has to be one of the least risky lending exercises.
Imagine our business was floundering and we went under, where would that leave the lender? They would get the keys to a nice little place in the country which could be sold at their leisure and turn in a couple of hundred grand profit.
Let me tell you what I will do instead. I will call my bank, request a quick chat with one of their pleasant sales staff and organise an unsecured loan of £25,000 to be transferred to my account on the same day.
The link between risk and property value has clearly not registered in my lender’s systems. There is no risk in this case, so why are they forcing me to obtain a loan elsewhere, at penal rates, just so I can stay fully invested in my lovely tax-efficient Isa?
With sensible proof of circumstances being of passing interest, current underwriting is as oppositely irresponsible now as it was just a few years ago. Like then, they may as well just stick their fingers in the wind and guess for all it’s worth.
Tom Kean is director of Thameside