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Sally Laker: What a difference a year makes

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This time last year we were feeling more positive about the mortgage market but we were also somewhat hesitant to believe that any green shoots we saw would turn into a successive period of market growth. What a difference a year makes.

We recently held the eighth Mortgage Intelligence annual conference
and awards, which was attended by 200 people from the industry’s top banks, building societies, insurance providers and brokers. Our top-performing mortgage brokers showed their enthusiasm for the levels of business they are writing and they are very much looking ahead to the future.

One of the key topics at the conference was the launch of Help to Buy phase 2 and the rates lenders would introduce. Fortunately, Lloyds Banking Group was ready with its rates and the feedback brokers gave was extremely positive. Despite media reports of house price bubbles, brokers’ feelings towards Help to Buy 2 are one of relief.

The industry now has a real mechanism for helping those first-time buyers and home movers with a small deposit get on or move up the housing ladder, and this is encouraging for the housing market as a whole.

At the conference, lenders spoke about seeing genuine interest in the planning for the rest of the year and into 2014 but the MMR is a particular concern. A presentation by Nigel Stockton of Countrywide covered the timeline for the MMR and his view was that lenders and brokers need to recruit now if they are to be ready for the increased business expected in 2014. He concluded his presentation with a cautionary note of a possible slowdown in Q2 2014 when the MMR kicks in as all lenders will be relying on their IT systems delivering a perfect solution.

However, Q3 and Q4 2014 should provide an opportunity to catch up on any missed volumes in Q2. Some industry experts are predicting mortgage volumes will be about £190bn in 2014.

Another topic on everyone’s lips at the conference was protection. Brokers admitted they need to manage their time better to improve the volume of not only protection sales but general insurance too. Brokers know this delivers increased income and a better relationship with their clients as well as the knowledge that their client has the right level of protection. This was the first time we have seen such a buzz around protection and much excitement about brokers’ protection plans.

No one at the conference disagreed that quality is here to stay. Brokers agreed that they need to provide quality business to lenders but they feel individual lenders need to clarify what they are looking for. This formed part of a discussion about what lenders are focusing on and how brokers can assist, as brokers appear concerned about the time this now adds to every mortgage application.

Overall, the atmosphere at the confer-ence was full of promise, positivity and very high expectations for H2B 2. We are looking to buck the trend in 2014 and not desert protection sales but increase them alongside general insurance sales.

Sally Laker is managing director of Mortgage Intelligence Holdings 

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