Working around the impact

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact throughout the world with almost every industry and market affected by it. Certainly, the mortgage industry has and continues to face many challenges. Lenders, advisers, and their customers face logistical challenges as they navigate ways to work efficiently from home, without face-to-face contact and for some there will be additional financial pressures.

Mortgage holidays

With normal working practices thrown into disarray and businesses losing large percentages of their income, the knock-on effect meant many homeowners could be faced with financial hardship. To help support borrowers, the government announced that mortgage lenders would offer three-month payment holidays to try and ease the burden and this has subsequently now been extended[1]. It is estimated that almost one-in-five UK mortgage holders have now been granted a payment holiday, which equates to around 2M Britons[2].

In response to the continued financial challenges faced by many consumers, a series of proposals have been developed to help borrowers who are continuing to struggle with mortgage repayments[3] including:

  • Granting those who have not yet taken a payment holiday until 31st October 2020 to apply
  • Enabling borrowers coming to the end of a payment holiday, but still in need of support, to request another three-month payment holiday
  • Stating that at the end of the payment holiday lenders should contact borrowers to agree whether to spread the cost of missed payments over the remaining mortgage term or to extend the term
  • Extending the ban on repossession of houses until 31st October 2020
  • Clarifying that payments missed through payment holidays or partial holidays will not affect a borrower’s credit score

Mortgage products almost halved

COVID-19 also heavily impacted the UK housing market. In the middle of March, mortgage lenders were forced to review their offerings due to the operational obstacles that the lockdown imposed, including the requirement to continue servicing and supporting existing customers, the process of mass migrating day-to-day operations to a home based set up, and the inability to obtain physical valuations. The consequences of these factors resulted in numerous product withdrawals or amendments alongside multiple policy and criteria changes. Meanwhile, buyers and sellers were urged not to move or hold viewings during the lockdown[4].

Recent Mortgage Brain data (as of 27 May) shows that when compared to pre-pandemic levels, the number of mortgage products available is 42.4% lower than the nine-week average to 16th March[5]. However, it is not all bad news, there is cause for cautious optimism as that figure appeared to bottom out during the week ending 12th April and the last five weeks have shown a steady rise in the number of products, resulting in a 13.8% (8,450) increase on the lowest level4.

Technology at the forefront

For many of the problems the pandemic has given rise to, technology frequently provides an answer. With the battle against Coronavirus demanding everyone observes social distancing, while there was a boom in remortgages, the housing purchase market slowed[6], with the knock-on effect being felt by the mortgage industry. But out of these problems, could we have found different ways of working that change our lives for the better?

Times like these bring about radical innovations and new solutions to tackle these obstacles. If you’re trying to buy a house, a viewing in person was not allowed during the lockdown. Now, although possible again, many buyers and agents may be sceptical about the safety of viewing in person. This has given rise to virtual viewings as there is no need keep to the two-metre rule but moreover it provides a widely accessible experience that buyers and agents can perform from the safety of their own homes whilst reaching a larger audience than ever, without the constraints of having to align the scheduling of the seller, buyer and agent[7]. This innovation appears to have surpassed the old way of working with a more convenient and efficient process, and with the addition of drone technology, exteriors of larger properties can be impressively showcased too. Perhaps this could become a part of the new normal?

Another heavily impacted activity has been the hosting of in-person events with countless roadshows, seminars, exhibitions and conferences having to be cancelled as venues close with little idea of when they may reopen. Once again, technology has been leveraged to provide a substitute through online events. Whilst you can’t pick up your goodie bag full of handy gadgets or enjoy a smorgasbord of snacks, think of the stress, travel time, and cost negated by not having to make travel and hotel arrangements. Not to mention the positive effect on your carbon footprint. Could virtual events also become a part of everyday business life after lockdown?

Support for the market

At a day-to-day level, innovation within technology itself has also provided a channel of support with companies like Zoom and Google constantly and rapidly evolving their offerings to meet the new needs of a digitally expectant world.

Within the mortgage industry it is a similar situation. Rapid changes to products available, policy and lenders’ criteria have proved challenging to keep track of due to the number of channels providing information and the constant nature of the changes. To aide this, several support hubs emerged in the market offering support to various groups. However, in April, Mortgage Brain delivered a new breed of support hub that took a holistic view of the market and consolidated everything in one place to provide a single source of truth and help combat the information overload.

Developed to support advisers and lenders alike during these challenging times, the COVID-19 Support Hub was made available on Criteria Hub and relays the truth about the pandemic’s impact on the industry across policy, product and news as well as containing easily accessible resources including:

  • Lenders Impact Page allowing you to access regularly updated information populated direct from the lenders themselves, and
  • COVID-19 News Portal displaying criteria, product, and industry news as it is released

Mortgage Brain made its COVID-19 Support Hub available to everyone by hosting it publicly to ensure all advisers had access to the updates they needed to be able to monitor the rapidly evolving marketplace. Taking it a step further, Mortgage Brain also made the Criteria Hub platform free to registered users for at least 90 days (*offer ended 31 Jul 2020) so they could further filter through the noise that the Coronavirus outbreak brought.

Innovation at the core

Mortgage Brain has long been a mortgage technology expert and market leader, and COVID-19 has proved the value of its innovative solutions through its ability to keep advisers working efficiently, from wherever they find themselves.

Inevitably, the need to work from home and the lack of face-to-face meetings with clients has created its own challenges. But Mortgage Brain solutions like The Key with its Client Portal, make  communication with clients secure, quick, and simple through encrypted online messaging. Meanwhile, its case tracking functionality means both adviser and client know exactly how a case is progressing 24/7.

The latest version of The Key includes new remortgage review functionality which can monitor when a mortgage rate is due for review, suggest potential replacement products complete with savings, and automatically email a customer and urge them to contact their adviser.

Whilst the purchase market slowly starts to move, ConveyancingBrain offers a way to take advantage of the surge in demand for remortgages which currently accounts for 65% of market activity[8]. It’s quick and simple to send a cashback or fixed fee remortgage to earn referral fees of up to £300 and the case tracking functionality within ConveyancingBrain means customers can always see how their case is progressing.

How long will COVID-19’s impact on our market last? No one really knows. And who is to say what the new normal will be for the industry, but the pandemic has undoubtedly served as a catalyst for innovation and digitalisation, the impacts of which will revolutionise the way we all work. To find out more about Mortgage Brain’s suite of powerful solutions that together offer a seamless end-to-end journey from sourcing through to conveyancing, email

*The 90-day trial offer ran from 20th April – 30 July 2020 and is no longer available