Impact of COVID-19 on Mortgage Brokers: Why ‘Remote Relationships’ Are Crucial
It’s safe to say that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been colossal. Across oceans, social classes and in every industry; we have all felt it to some degree.
As time has passed the ‘new normal’ has well and truly set in. For many businesses there is no longer an ‘after the pandemic’ mindset, there is instead a completely new way of working. And one area that has felt this more than most is the mortgage market.
Moving home has never been harder when you can’t, well, leave it. Mortgage broker documents went unsigned, surveys couldn’t be conducted, and house viewings were well and truly halted. As the market was slowly revived it became clear that nothing could be the same again, but what changed? And how did the market adapt?
It is a question many brokers, conveyancers and even mortgage providers have sought an answer for in the ensuing months.
How has the pandemic affected mortgage brokers in the UK?
From the outset the mortgage market faced challenges. With the market frozen during the first lockdown in March 2020, barely a tumbleweed moved, let alone homebuyers.
But, cut to today and the reality is very different. In December 2020, the Office for National Statistics recorded that house prices had seen an 8.5% increase, seeing a significant rise from July onwards. The average house price in England currently is £269,150.00. So, there is still a demand and the market is working hard to fulfil it.
However, lenders have become much stricter because of the pandemic. Approvals fell sharply and many products were pulled from the market completely. There is of course one group in particular who have drawn the short end of the stick: first-time buyers. With many high loan-to-value mortgages stripped from the market (90% and 95% LTV mortgages especially), there has been a sharp reduction in FTB home purchases.
So, it is no wonder that many buyers still active in the market turned to expert mortgage brokers at this time.
For some buyers, mortgage brokers have been indispensable to the pandemic house-buying process. With direct access to lenders, mortgage brokers have been the bridge to help many people find a product that suits their needs. Of course, the methods of working and the impact on broker/client relationships have been an interesting road to navigate.
How have broker & client relationships been affected?
Before 2020, setting up a meeting to discuss your mortgage needs with a broker was the norm. Now many buyers may never meet their broker at all. It’s a stark change that many industries are having to adapt to. The real question is: has it started to impact client relationships?
The challenge for many has been building a level of trust through a screen. Buying a house is one of the most stressful things a person will do in their life, so how do you learn to trust pixels?
It is simple: communication, communication and, surprisingly, communication.
Video calls have been an integral way to ensure face-to-face dialogue. But managing written communication has never been more important. Being on top of sending mortgage broker documents, sending key information for obtaining a suitable mortgage, and of course updating clients in terms of their application. In this new reality, there is no room for error whilst trying to retain a strong foundation of trust.
The best way to share documents with clients (now and post COVID-19)
For too long the mortgage industry has clung to physical documents. Where other industries made ‘Paperless Workplace’ pledges, the mortgage industry just printed out the pledge to review later.
The truth is that physical documents are a waning commodity in an online world. That was true pre-COVID-19 and will certainly be true after it. Physical documents put you and your clients at risk for several reasons.
· Theft of documents puts your client data at risk
· Accidental destruction of documents can mean valuable data is lost forever
· Increases chances of human error and misplacing them at critical times
· High costs of physical storage
· Limit collaboration across the team and for clients
So, what is the alternative? Believe it or not, it’s not sharing documents over email. That brings its own security risks.
Instead, the best way to share documents with clients is in fact through secure file sharing software. This removes all the issues of physical documents, while also ensuring you do not introduce new security risks through email or other compromised software as all data is encrypted.
This is vital in an industry where sensitive client data, such as financial history, is dealt with on a day-to-day basis. In a post-COVID world where remote working remains the norm, adapting to a securer way of sharing sensitive information will be critical.
How have e-signatures helped to keep things moving?
There is a lot of paperwork to sign in the house buying process. From Stamp Duty forms to the Deed of Trust, there is sheet after sheet of legal jargon to contend with. All too often the buyer struggles to keep track of what they must sign in their pile of mortgage broker documents. Chasing them for it all can feel like trying to catch the wind; a lot of effort and impossible to get hold of.
In walks the hero of the hour. Electronic signatures for legal documents are the saving grace of the pandemic for a document-heavy industry. Gone are the long postal waits. Gone are your clients losing a document because the cat was sat on it. Gone are the long email chains trying to get that one last thing sorted. No, they already sent that five times. The other thing.
In fact, some businesses have implemented e-signatures and achieved a massive 83% improvement to workflow and approvals. This level of efficiency boost speaks for itself.
Here at Workiro, we have made the signing process as quick and painless as possible. Simply:
1. Create a New Thread - choosing a Signature type thread
2. Add who needs to be involved
3. Upload/drag a PDF document and configure where to sign
4. Add a title, due date and any extra information, i.e., is it needed ASAP, or is there anything specific the receiver needs to be aware of
5. Tag it for easy future recall and auto storing i.e. with the house purchase name
What you should end up with is something like this:
As we look to the future, a post-COVID world looks very different from the one we left behind. But change doesn’t have to be bad. People are still moving home and the need for mortgage brokers has never been higher in such an uncertain market. Working in a smarter and more digitally secure way is more vital than ever because of this.