Frustration as brokers get mixed messages

Spring is here again and with it hope that the housing market will start to pick up.

This time of year is a traditional turning point in estate agents’ calendars and in the past we in the mortgage industry have always felt the ripple effect of this. But this year I seem to be getting conflicting signals.

Estate agents are indicating a rise in activity and sales are on the up but at the mortgage coal face it still seems that only a certain type of buyer is being courted by piece of the jigsaw – first-time buyers – are being left out in the cold.

One lender seemingly trying to buck this trend is Royal Bank of Scotland Intermediary Partners. It recently returned to the 90% LTV market with a fixed rate deal.

This is a great signal to other lenders although the £150,000 cap on the product is pretty low for anyone living south of Inverness. I suppose it is aiming the deal at buyers below the temporary Stamp Duty threshold.

But RBSIP always seems to be a lender that wants to help us brokers do business.

To echo industry consultant Jonathan Cornell’s comments on the subject, the RBSIP broker forum I attended last year was probably the best such event in 2008.

OK, so there was not much competition last year but RBSIP put on a well constructed, thought-provoking and intelligent day that should cause those responsible for the standard pen-gathering events that went before to look again at their efforts.

Grenville Turner, chief executive of Countrywide, made it worthwhile staying until the last session.

I was also fortunate enough to spend some time after the forum with some of Countrywide’s top people, which was a refreshing experience.

Of course, if a week is a long time in politics then a year in the life of a lender is an eternity, but listening to some of the leading lights at the event, it was clear they empathised with the plight of brokers.

If you can get to one of these events this year I recommend it.

Unfortunately, RBSIP’s attitude contrasts strikingly with that of another prominent lender – Abbey for Intermediaries.

AfI recently revealed it has abandoned any idea of paying retention fees to brokers, opting instead to offer better deals to clients who take out current accounts and other peripheral services with the bank.

I understand that AfI is a business but its conflicting messages are frustrating.

Our local BDM and network account manager sing from the same ‘we love brokers’ hymn sheet but the message from on high seems somewhat different.

In fact, the name Abbey for Intermediaries is starting to sound like an oxymoron to me.