From John Stewart
We were approached by first-time buyers at the end of March who realised that buying a house would be a stressful experience – but they hadn't anticipated dealing with Northern Rock's administration. We approached Northern Rock because it was the only lender who could help our clients ,who had run up some debts and needed to raise a loan of 125% LTV.
The problem is you have to deal with a call centre which is powerless to influence the progress of an application. We have phoned the centre on many occasions only to be told that while it can liaise with other departments, the minimum turnaround time is 48 hours for any request. In our experience it has been nearer a week even to receive a simple update. We had great difficulty getting Northern Rock to apply for employers' references, for example, which took over a week to be issued. It got so desperate – since the lenders were being pressured by the estate agent – that we had to speak to a supervisor (a rare experience) to ask her to fax the request herself. She only did this because the alternative was to add it to the growing pile of things that already had to be done.
Eventually a survey was done and two and half weeks later Northern Rock said the property was unsuitable because it was next to a shop – something that surely should have been picked up on straight away. There is already a mortgage on the property and we believe other lenders would have no problem with this. We were advised to make a case for Northern Rock to reconsider the application. This was supported by photographs at its request and sent on May 20. Two weeks went by without response. We rang our broker consultant on many occasions but he was never available and rarely answered messages.
The likelihood is that the clients will lose the property and will have to go elsewhere. I appreciate that lenders have criteria but if the property is unsuitable the least they can do is inform us urgently that this is the case. This has not been our experience. We have received calls from the clients every day but have been unable to update them because of a lack of response from Northern Rock. This has put our credibility at stake in recommending such a lender. Fortunately the clients have spoken to Northern Rock direct and received the same treatment, so they appreciate our dilemma.
Northern Rock has a good product with decent rates but has clearly been overwhelmed with the demand, hence the abominable service. We will be invoicing Northern Rock for our time and I would warn all readers to be aware of its service problems.
We eventually received an answer from Northern Rock's national sales manager, but only after complaining through our network, Sesame.