For sub-prime especially, the days are long gone when it was frowned upon as the domain of the back street broker – a place where override payments thrived and clients were hit with dual interest rate pricing under the notorious Rule of 78. Now the sector oozes credibility with corporate big hitters relaxing underwriting criteria to grab a slice of the action.As we explore in our supplement on specialist lending with this issue of Mortgage Strategy, there may be just few more than a handful of lenders in the sub-prime market but between them they offer several hundred products. Then there’s self-cert, once catered for by a few specialist lenders but now boasting over 30 providers including household names such as BM Solutions, Bristol & West and Standard Life Bank. Whether the buy-to-let market should be fully regulated will continue to be argued about for some time yet, but for now we can see it has grown from a fledgling to a sector served by over 80 lenders. The steady gain in respectability across the specialist lending spectrum has been brought about by cheaper pricing, ultimately as a result of increased competition and a growing awareness of the benefits it can offer. The key to specialist lending in the sub-prime and self-cert markets – what makes these two dynamic markets so successful – is the empowerment of home ownership. Or, as in the case of lifetime mortgages, being able to utilise your greatest asset when you need to most. Home ownership is the bedrock of our industry. Allowing these clients access to the best available finance with the best available advice keeps the housing market buoyant, helps keep society stable and drives the intermediary market forward. Long may it continue.