Bridgingwatch – Danny Waters – May 2012

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. That’s what West One Loans chairman Duncan Kreeger and chief executive officer Mark Abrahams will be hoping anyway as they head off to the city of sin (pictured) with 10 brokers in tow at the end of June.

Jokes aside, from a business perspective the West One ’Win a trip of a lifetime to Vegas’ competition has generated huge interest, with broker enquiries reported to be up by around 30%.

The competition may have been controversial with its peers but West One will be delighted with the spike in new business it has created.
Another lender that has reported strong performance recently is Dragonfly Property Finance.

Dragonfly, I was reading in last week’s Mortgage Strategy, issued 500 agreements in principle in the first four months of the year on loans amounting to a significant £337m. That’s a big number and one that the lender puts down to increasing demand for buy-to-let.

In other news, the first anniversary of the Association of Bridging Professionals’ market report has revealed a selection of figures from the past year.

The number given most emphasis was the £229m in short-term lending over 11 months.

As I see it, this figure demonstrates that the market is not as big as most commentators may believe or, conversely, that a growing number of bridging applications are being completed by intermediaries not affiliated to the trade body.

Another surprising number in the report was that in February 2012 AOBP executive committee members completed gross lending amounting to a mere £15m. This reduction in volume does not seem to correlate with the surge in activity that is being reported by lenders for Q1.

However, I do believe the industry has developed more depth in the past year.

Omni Capital only began to flicker on distributors’ radars in June 2011 but has progressively increased its volume to achieve a high ranking position within the bridging sector. This is impressive and shows new entrants can capture market share and will keep other lenders on their toes. Nobody can afford to become complacent in a competitive market.

Taking a more macro view on the sector as a whole, I see the emergence of a two-tier market, with five leading firms that stand out, including the likes of Omni and Precise Mortgages, and then everyone else.

Sticking with the trade bodies theme, there’s still no replacement for Adrian Bloomfield who stepped down in March as chief executive officer of the Association of Short Term Lenders. It’s a space the organisation will surely want to fill sooner rather than later.

An announcement sent to members by Bloomfield in midMay revealed some of the problems at the ASTL. The email suggested both member and trade body discontent and an underlying weakness in its data.

The sooner the trade body can resolve this issue and find a new CEO, the sooner it can rediscover some direction.

Deal Makers

WEST ONE LOANS has completed a £1.6m deal on a pub in London’s upmarket Knightsbridge area.

FINCORP was able to assist a borrower in buying a £4.55m home in Knightsbridge by releasing bridging finance to the tune of £3m.

CHEVAL completed a £750,000 second charge loan on a residential property worth more than £5.5m in central London. The loan wasunderwritten and ready to be paid out within four working days.