Opinion  

The jokers stealing your independence label

Aimee Steen

I recently attempted to buy a house. Unfortunately it fell through, but it introduced me to that special breed of people designed to make everybody else’s lives hell: estate agents.

Along with the usual pressure-selling tactics (“I have three other people seeing this house in the next five minutes, and my colleague has at least 54 people interested”), I was told the purchase would go through much faster and be far smoother if I used the estate agent’s in-house mortgage adviser. All for the bargain price of £400.

Now warning bells were already ringing at this point – given the option, I would always choose independent advice – but I decided to hear out this mortgage adviser, find out if there actually was any benefit to using him. After all, I thought, I’ve never bought a house before, maybe it would be better to get all my services under one roof (excuse the pun).

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So I get Mr Mortgage Adviser on the phone and ask him to explain his services to me (some paraphrasing ensues).

“I work for you to find you the best mortgage deal at the best possible price,” says Mr Mortgage Adviser. “My advice is in no way linked to the estate agent and I have your best interests in mind.”

Okay, say I, sounds lovely. Tell me, are you an independent financial adviser?

“I am completely independent in that I have your interests at heart. I am totally independent of any mortgage provider and look across the whole market to find the best deal for you.”

Right. So you can recommend any mortgage product that is suitable for me?

“I have a panel of the best providers, there are hardly any that I don’t recommend from. I am the most highly qualified person in my company in this field.”

And do you provide personalised advice on all types of products?

“I am completely independent of the estate agent and work to find the best mortgage solution for you.”

So you only advise on mortgages and, when you do, you make recommendations from a limited list of providers. Therefore you are not independent and you are not even restricted whole-of-market. Are you directly authorised by the FCA? Are you a regulated financial adviser?

“I am completely independent of the estate agent and work to find the best mortgage solution for you.”

At this point, my head is repeatedly making contact with the wall and I am explaining to Mr Mortgage Adviser that I will not be taking his ‘advice’ offering and will be using an IFA.

“But it will go through much faster if I do it!” he protests. Why might that be, I ask? “I’m going on holiday on Friday and only I can get it through by then.” Hang on – wouldn’t someone who is not on a beach on Spain be a bit better placed to chase my mortgage application?