MortgagesJul 30 2021

Brokers warn on debt amid growth of buy now, pay later

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Brokers warn on debt amid growth of buy now, pay later
REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo
ByRuby Hinchliffe

Mortgage brokers have warned first-time buyers need to "change their mentality" to debt as the growth of buy now, pay later makes affordability checks more awkward.

BNPL, a service offered by companies such as Klarna, Afterpay, Laybuy and Zilch, allows consumers to buy a product online and pay for it gradually through a series of payments.

According to research by Finder, 37 per cent of people in Britain say they have used a BNPL service - a number which increases to 54 per cent among millennials.

And the sector is continuing to receive funding - with Zilch recently raising £80m from Goldman Sachs.

But recent reports have drawn attention to how BNPL services are affecting first-time buyers’ chances of getting a mortgage because of the affordability process.

Pay back arrangements such as the ones BNPL providers offer at checkout count as expenses. If, added together, a potential borrower’s expenses make a mortgage unaffordable, then the lender cannot issue them that particular mortgage.

Together with credit cards and other forms of debt, this means BNPL can affect a borrower's mortgage application.

“I had a 40-year-old client with 20 items of finance,” Ellen Roome, director of mortgage and insurance provider The Finance Roome, told FTAdviser. She referenced BNPL, credit cards, and car loans.

In response to fears over finance ruining young people’s chances of getting a mortgage, Roome said: “You can’t have it both ways. There comes a point where it becomes the borrower’s own fault.”

To solve the issue of young people becoming ‘trigger happy’ with finance options, Roome reckons “these buyers need to change their mentality” and learn how to prioritise. She added: “Most people in years gone by wouldn’t have run up debt on money they didn’t have.”

Education over regulation

One way to change this mentality, Roome said, would be to introduce financial advice earlier on in their lives, and to improve debt education at a school level.

In response to the rising popularity of BNPL products, the Financial Conduct Authority is in the midst of bringing interest-free BNPL products under its jurisdiction alongside interest-bearing ones, but Roome believes imminent regulation “won’t change behaviour”. 

Hiten Ganatra, managing director at Visionary Finance, agreed “better financial education in schools around the BNPL culture” is the answer.

“As mortgage advisers, we are seeing more and more younger first-time buyers with adverse credit or blips in their credit history, especially since the start of the pandemic. This is often also coupled with a lower deposit.