‘One minute you’re cock of the walk, the next you’re a feather duster.’
It might be one of the favourite phrases of Piers Morgan but there’s every reason to believe there’s plenty of truth in the above, and perhaps highlights just how quickly things can change in any walk of life.
Politics being the perhaps the most obvious of those at present – how quickly that particular environment has shifted for the main players in the last few months. June 2020 looks like a very different picture to December and January for instance.
The same can be said for the mortgage market. Not so long ago we appeared to be in the ‘heart of darkness’ when it came to securing and processing business – effectively behind the eight ball without any physical valuations taking place and, while we still had a product range to offer, the fact of the matter was that we could only progress them up to the point of valuation.
The decision to relax lockdown last month has made a real difference and with every passing day since that point we as a specialist buy-to-let lender have been able to inch forward, albeit being cautious and stressing the need for patience.
With valuations now taking place we have been able to recently announce a further move back towards ‘business as usual’ with a new 70/75% LTV product range, moving up from our previous 60% LTV level.
The response has been excellent already and, from our perspective, it shows the underlying demand for buy-to-let lending, and the fact that many of your landlord clients have no intention of stepping back from the private rental sector. If anything, Covid-19 may well be seen as the next stage in its development with tenant demand potentially growing again.
It is of course very early days still, and we are certainly not getting too far ahead of ourselves, but the confidence emanating from our funders about our position and what we might wish to do next, has certainly bolstered our conviction around what Fleet can achieve, the timeline we can achieve it in and the support we are going to need in order to move this on.
And this is a point which should not be lost on any stakeholder. Throughout this experience, what has perhaps been most heartening is the genuine feeling of partnership between us as the lender, our distributor partners, and the intermediaries that use (and rely on) us.
You’ll be well aware that we’ve had a number of sales staff – particularly those in the field – on furlough recently and therefore we have relied even more upon our partners to help push that communication message out as far and wide as possible.
Without that ability, that patience, and understanding from both distributor and adviser alike, I’m not sure we’d be in the position we are currently in – looking at the future and our forward momentum rather than perhaps dwelling on what has already happened and wondering if we could have done things differently in order to mitigate against the impact of Covid-19.
For what it’s worth, I’m not sure any business could have foreseen – even at the start of March – what was coming over the horizon and just how disruptive it would be. What we could control was our reaction to it, and that goes for the months to come as well – we are in a far better position now when compared to back then. The ability to conduct physical valuations has seen us bounce quite significantly off the bottom and it seems to me that the future is onward and upward.
So, I hope our recent forays back into the market reveal not just our hand now but what we’d like to go next. As mentioned, this won’t happen overnight, but we’ve had plenty of backing to continue on this drive and we hope we can bring you and your clients with us.
Steve Cox is distribution director at Fleet Mortgages