Mystery Shopper  

Mystery Shopper: Kensington

Mystery Shopper: Kensington

A sales director seeking a studio flat is comparing shared ownership with an outright purchase.

This week the shopper visits Kensington. He wants to buy a studio costing around £500,000, but only has a £15,000 deposit. As a first-time buyer, the shopper needs a little extra saved on top of his deposit to cover stamp duty. His annual salary is £65,000 and he is considering whether to opt for shared ownership instead.

Each week the mystery shopper seeks advice from independent advisers in the UK.

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The aim is to find out whether advisers are delivering the goods when it comes to the all-important initial telephone contact between client and adviser. It is only intended to evaluate this first interview, and it is understood that further meetings would be necessary before final decisions could be made. The purpose is not to expose poor selling practices, but to show constructively any weaknesses in the advice process.

Adviser: Opes Financial Partners (Independent) 

Address: 167-169 Kensington High Street, W8 6SH

Speed of response: Three rings, receptionist transferred to adviser, adviser answered after five rings. 2.35pm 4/5

Telephone manner: Friendly, open and professional 5/5

Relevant qualifications: CeMap 5/5

Payment method: £350 flat fee 3/5

Guidance given: The adviser provided insightful information on the mortgage rates that tend to be available with higher deposits, relative to the property values in London the shopper was looking at. The shopper was urged to consider this along with income multiples that lenders lend against when purchasing outright.

The adviser also outlined how shared ownership schemes impact lenders’ criteria and decisions. 4/5

Knowledge: The adviser had good knowledge on product ranges for first-time buyers, alongside the product features that tend to be available with deposits of more than 15 to 30 per cent. However, the shopper would have liked much more information on how and what to research on shared ownership schemes. 3/5

Email/web presence: 5/5

Verdict: The adviser had sufficient basic knowledge to help the shopper in the first instance, though lacked the wider, more comprehensive experience in shared ownership schemes that other advisers displayed.

Total score/35:



Adviser: Alex De Silva & Co (Independent)

Address: 158 Buckingham Palace Road, Belgravia, SW1W 9TR

Speed of response: Time of call: 11.03am. Answered in two calls, straight through to adviser. 5/5

Telephone manner: Friendly, open and professional. 5/5

Relevant qualifications: Mortgage adviser (CeMap) 5/5

Payment method: £595 flat fee. 3/5

Guidance given: The adviser explained that the shopper could access better mortgage rates if he could save for or afford a larger deposit.

He warned that certain lenders will lend only against studios of a minimum size, such as 30 sq ft or 30 sq metres. Examples of income multiples lenders use were given, and factors included in affordability criteria.

The adviser explained how first-time buyers have used shared ownership and how products like the Lifetime Isa could be used with this option. 5/5