A quick look back at 2017 shows that mortgage brokers had a lot to be thankful for.
In spite of a weaker economy, the election and Brexit uncertainty, last year was still a strong year for the mortgage market.
The industry has remained resilient in a low interest rate environment and the Autumn Budget delivered welcome news with the promise of 300,000 new homes a year, £10bn in funding for Help to Buy and the exemption of stamp duty for first-time buyers.
Brokers and lenders have been able to return to work in January with significant optimism for the year ahead. Whether it proves warranted, however, will partly depend on them.
For a start, when it comes to government announcements, we’ve seen pledges to tackle the housing crisis with thousands of new homes before.
What matters is whether it materialises in the form of houses on the ground. The whole industry should be pushing to see that it does.
In the meantime, affordability will remain a key issue in 2018.
Analysts at Hometrack recently noted that the house price-to-salary ratio in London hit a record high at 14.5 times the average wage.
Stamp duty savings pale beside the size of deposits savers still have to muster and, even if interest rates remain low, the next rise could come sooner rather than later.
Of course, brokers can help here. In fact, this just means they’re more important than ever.
But to do so they need to work hard on three fronts:
1) First, they must be clear about the value they bring.
Our recent 'Value of a Broker' campaign showed worrying misunderstandings about a broker’s role.
Fewer than half, for instance, knew that the broker works primarily for the borrower and more than half of consumers thought brokers offered them the access to the same products as when going directly to a bank or building society.
Advisers need to be loud and clear about the value they bring, including the access they offer to thousands more mortgage products for consumers.
2) They need to make sure they have the knowledge to make the most of opportunity.
Where buyers are struggling to raise a sufficient deposit, advisers need to be in a position to present them with all the options.
For example, could the Bank of Mum and Dad help? If they can’t afford to buy locally, could buy-to-let somewhere else offer an alternative way to secure a foot on the housing ladder? Are they aware of schemes such as Shared Ownership that could be an alternative route?
Brokers need to have a broad view of the market, be aware of all the options available to buyers and be able to tackle any misconceptions clients might have about housing schemes.