There have been more than a few welcome signs in the mortgage market of late as competition between lenders seems to have made a welcome return, reflected in some rate cutting across many different products in the past few days.

Most lenders seem to have got in on the act with some competitive tracker products and fixes as well as more higher loan-to-value products making an appearance.

This is of course good news for consumers and mortgage brokers alike as more choice comes back into the market. The one thing to watch, however, is the continuance of not just some strict underwriting policy, which is hard to really argue against, but some more “unfair” policies if that is the right word.

As usual it seems that the self-employed often bear the brunt of this, and one particular rule adopted by a couple of lenders is that of the effect a reduction in net profits have. For example, take an equity partner in a leading law or accountancy firm who earns a share of net profit. They earn six figures and the net profit of the main multinational firm runs into millions. Obviously we have just been through one mother of a crunch, just emerging from recession so many businesses have had a down turn in figures.

So, this firm has a slight downturn in net profits which means the partner’s share of equity reduces by no more than a few thousand, i.e. less than £10k. At least one lender stated they would not lend because net profits had reduced! Of course they have, is this not expected given the financial turmoil of the time?

It seems unfair to say to self-employed people if you have a good established business and you have just had a dip due to world events that you would not lend at all. Many employed people have agreed to take a cut in wages or bonuses to see themselves through and keep a job, but they are not told they cannot get a loan at all.

At least base it on the reduced figure, as you would on an employed person’s current salary, rather than having a broad stick approach of we can’t lend! Am I wrong to think that? Surely this downturn is all expected and does not mean that every self-employed persons business is going down the tube? Many of these people are safer bets than an employee who could be shed at any time, and I am not talking about those in a new business with no accounts, but long standing businesses that can show years of audited accounts!

I also understand why some lenders still seem to be carefully cherry picking those clients they want to lend to, but would rather see sensible reasons written into a policy rather than making more random excuses.

It is all very well to have tighter criteria, but there does need to be some common sense attached rather than a computer says no approach. It is a shame that some good people are struggling to take advantage of the low rates at present, whether trying to buy their dream home or trying to remortgage onto a fixed rate in the face of a potentially rising rate environment.

While no-one wants a return to the lax policies of the past when a passport and a smile got you a large mortgage loan, there is still room surely for a sensible middle ground.

I would say, however, that this does mean many more people seem to be coming to Professional Mortgage Brokers for proper advice after having had issues direct with lenders; so as they say, every cloud…

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