Taking Stock

Nigel Stockton

I saw the first snowdrops earlier this week and wondered if this was the start of an early spring.

Certainly the thaw in lending continues apace with a very busy February for our brokers and appointed reps in Mortgage Intelligence.

For the first time you can make an argument that remaining on SVR is not as attractive as many of the remortgage deals meaning that back books can be properly evaluated and new deals put in place rather than rolled over and kept on the aforementioned SVR.

Quoted rates on two-year fixed-rate mortgages worth 90 per cent of the property’s value tumbled from 5.33 per cent to 4.73 per cent between December and January, according to Bank of England statistics – the steepest monthly drop in rates on mortgages with a high LTV ratio since 1996.

The improved conditions are feeding into actual housing transactions with e-surv research showing that there were 7,758 loans to borrowers with a deposit of 15 per cent or less in January, the highest number since February 2008.

Signs are positive for March and April exchanges. The figures are finally suggesting that the message to our lenders from the Government on the Funding for Lending Scheme and net lending is beginning to help first-time buyers with smaller deposits.

Raising the necessary deposit remains the biggest issue for new first-time buyers, but FirstBuy and NewBuy are now gathering momentum in the new build arena which delivers 95 per cent LTV offerings.

The new build sector has begun strongly in 2013 and there are good positive indications from housebuilders. 95 per cent LTV availability also seems to be gathering some momentum. I stand by the fact that this will be led by the mutual sector and then hopefully roll into core lenders later into 2013/14.

Barclays Springboard product is a good example of this and using parental contributions to get a 95 per cent LTV product is excellent.

It would be good if Lloyds Banking Group added its “lend a hand” offering to us poor downtrodden brokers – how many actual first-time buyers walk into branches now?

I’ve continued to say that all these steps are superb. It is mission critical to get to widely available 95 per cent LTV and this will make the most difference in the property market – there are shafts of light indicating that this could now happen in the medium term.

Buy-to-let opportunities continue to be positive and the figure of £16.8bn in buy-to-let gross mortgage lending from the CML in 2012 show double digit growth and is expected to continue in 2013.

Some BM Solutions products in particular are very strong and I was pleased to see Kent Reliance entering the fray which seems to indicate that people still think there are opportunities to make money and for the market to grow further.

Our lettings business still has many tenants waiting for appropriate stock so it would seem likely that this trend will continue for the foreseeable future.  

I also find the expansion of Lloyds Banking Group director of intermediaries Mike Jones’ role to also include being managing director of Scottish Widows Bank encouraging, interesting or “very interesting”, to use the words of football commentator Barry Davies.

I hope that this is the start of a reinvigoration of SWB’s product range – in the past it has delivered strong mortgage and savings products to professional customers.

I hope that the brand returns to this market and deliver great products to young doctors, dentists, accountants and the like. I think there are some real opportunities to complement the existing Lloyds product range.

On our panel, it is good to see Santander back and delivering volume alongside our hardy perennials – Nationwide and Halifax.

Royal Bank of Scotland has had a decent start to the year too. It is rare that us poor brokers don’t have someone to moan about but I can honestly say that all our lenders are looking to lend money. Even Investec is looking at new product ranges!

Support for listing as Montlake has us in stitches at awards

The last few weeks have seen developments in the equities market. Crest Nicholson post IPO share price performance has been very strong. A personal thank you to all of you who have provided feedback following the Countrywide announcement of our intention to IPO and list on the London Stock Exchange – much appreciated. In a similar vein, it was lovely to see so many at the Mortgage Strategy Awards – over 900 people can’t be wrong. We at Countrywide were thrilled with our Best Mortgage Distributor award.

Also a special mention from me to the Association of Mortgage Intermediaries’s 13 board members and Legal & General’s director of housing and external affairs Stephen Smith, who richly deserved the Mortgage Strategist and Lifetime achiever awards.

It was an excellent evening and these two in particular are tremendous ambassadors for our industry. Another personal highlight that night was to see Andrew Montlake’s needlework skills at the start of the evening after a large rip was found in his dinner jacket.

If his computer fails and he can never tweet again, I do believe an alternative career path may have been found.