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Property Natter: Q & A with Peter Brodnicki

As promised, this week’s Natter is dedicated to a question and answer session with Peter Brodnicki, the man who has been CEO of the Mortgage Advice Bureau since 2001. 

In that time he’s overseen the growth of MAB to become one of the country’s best known and most respected mortgage brands.

So, without further ado…

Do agents still need in-house mortgage advisers and brokers? Or is this old hat? 

Each agent is different, and so the solution for mortgage advice needs to be too. 

The decision to have an adviser based full time in a branch or perhaps covering two or three branches is very much down to the activity levels of the branches and how supportive the staff are in terms of lead generation for an adviser. 

Finding good advisers is very difficult, especially those that work proactively with the estate agency team, and it has to be the responsibility of the branch manager and staff to ensure the adviser’s diary is full. 

Property Natter: Q & A with Peter Brodnicki

Unless that culture exists within the branch, the mortgage intermediary firm will struggle to recruit the right adviser or hold onto them. 

Where the relationship is a strong one and the adviser and financial services function is fully integrated into the agent’s process and customer experience, then there is no better solution than an in-house adviser.

‘Out of sight, out of mind’ is a major issue, but of course a branch can refer to an off-site adviser by phone or e-mail, although this needs to be closely managed to be successful. 

For those agents with insufficient activity to support an in-house adviser, or those that are less proactive in terms of lead generation, the alternative is strong mortgage intermediary firms that live and breathe estate agency, and contracting out mortgage services in order to generate leads from new instructions, active applicants and at offer stage. 

This is something we have started to do but it has to be done by an experienced and centralised team, not by advisers. 

The ‘devil is in the detail’ but that is the overall principle; few will be able to deliver this service, but those that do will dominate this sector. 

The alternative for bigger estate agency firms with a central outward bound team is for specialists to call out the database and generate legal and financial leads for advisers. 

What does the future hold for mortgages? 

The UK has by far a greater choice of lenders and schemes for buyers than anywhere else in the world, with more lenders entering the market every year and completion on price and service constantly increasing. 

Mortgage intermediaries now arrange close to 70% of UK mortgages, up 25% from three years ago, however for many years now fewer and fewer properties have been purchased with a mortgage, with the biggest growth area being buy-to-let. 

In the last few years mortgage lending has increased but transaction volumes have been pretty flat.

Mortgages are a key driver of the UK housing market and always will be, and over the next few years we should start to see lending restrictions continue to relax slightly allowing more good quality borrowers to obtain the mortgages they require. 

Lending into retirement will be a huge growth area, and remortgaging will also pick up post Brexit and when interest rates start to increase.

How will mortgages be conducted in 5 or 10 years’ time? 

Technology is already starting to focus on the lending and mortgage intermediary sectors, which have been behind the times in terms of embracing technology to deliver a far more efficient and consistent customer experience. 

The intermediary will still dominate, but the intermediary landscape will change significantly, led by strong firms that invest in technology and brand.

Robo-advice is already being talked about, and the very early versions of it are already here today, but all that means is that technology will make the process easier, faster and more convenient. 

Mortgage brokers and estate agents need to give their customers far more choice in terms of how they want to transact, leaving the customer to decide how much of the process is face-to-face, online or over the phone, with developments in technology facilitating an increasingly more digital experience with human intervention where required.

What are the main frustrations that agents have with mortgage lenders, brokers and advisers?

Many agents’ frustration with lenders is due to a lack of understanding of the restrictions under which lenders operate. Clearly as with estate agency and brokers, some lenders’ service is better than others, but typically the frustration is the difficulty the applicant can experience getting a mortgage.

Brokers and advisers often don’t do themselves any favours by being hard to contact, not providing feedback to estate agency staff, and not providing lead generating marketing activities and training to support the estate agency staff, which is why you need to deal with a firm that specialises in estate agency financial services.

What effect will Brexit have on the mortgage market?

Purchase transactions will certainly be affected to some degree, at least for now. But remortgaging is likely to increase as borrowers look to lock in record low rates, which are set to fall further in the very short term, but the outstanding longer term fixed rates will now be around forever. 

The Governor of the Bank of England is already taking action to support lenders in maintaining and increasing lending levels and so, for borrowers, there has not been a better time to get on the property ladder or make that long awaited move. 

The full picture is still not yet clear, but the reasons people were buying and selling property pre-Brexit have not changed overall; this is so very different to 2008, and we will climb out of it far sooner.

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Thanks for those detailed answers, Peter. Very enlightening stuff.

If you have any thoughts on the mortgage market – where it’s headed, what changes we can expect, how it’s evolving, etc, etc – please make some comments in the comment section below.  

Until next time…

*Nat Daniels is the Chief Executive Officer of Angels Media, publishers of Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today

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