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Which way for quality street?

The mortgage market will wait anxiously in the first few months of the year for the results of the FSA’s quality of advice probe.

The regulator has already trailed some of the outcomes and it does not make positive reading for the market. The mortgage market can also look forward to the FSA’s effectiveness reviews of the sub-prime and lifetime mortgage markets and, again, good news on those fronts is unlikely.

The regulator, the Office of Fair Trading and the Competition Commission are also set to investigate the payment protection insurance market further.

The significance of housing information packs will start to be realised once they are introduced in June. The technology revolution is likely to continue, with many lenders expected to launch instant offers.

Much of the technology growth is being driven by new lenders, although GMAC-RFC and BM Solutions have continued to lead the market on that front as well. Commentators are unsure if any new entrants will burst on to the scene in.

The US investment banks not yet involved in the UK homeloan arena are still thought to be keeping their options open while big brokers are predicted to enter the lending scene through branded lending. Broker alliance Concordia has already said it is likely to launch branded lending in the first half of the year.

There could be merger activity on the lending front, with Deloitte, among others, suggesting that Nationwide’s acquisition of Portman is a sign of things to come.

There were even suggestions at the Council of Mortgage Lenders’ annual conference last month that some of the direct high-street firms could merge in a bid to counter the success of the broker market.

Many agree that 2006 was a good year for brokers but there are concerns on the horizon, notably due to the prediction that the remortgage market is likely to shrink with the growth of retention schemes. That means that intermediaries could be fighting for a slice of a much smaller market.

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