Average intermediary caseload volumes reached a record high in Q4 2021, with mortgage advisers having processed more cases in the 12 months to it than at any other point since 2015, according to the latest report from the Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association (IMLA).

IMLA’s mortgage market tracker showed that the typical intermediary now places 103 cases per year, a 32% increase from the yearly average determined in Q4 2020.

Q4 2021 also witnessed high levels of intermediary confidence. 62% said they were ‘very confident’ about the outlook for their firm, while 98% were confident overall.

Confidence in the outlook for the broader intermediary sector likewise remained high, with 96% either ‘confident’ or ‘very confident’, compared to 97% in Q3 2021.

However, confidence in the outlook for the mortgage industry dipped from 46% of advisers feeling ‘very confident’ in Q3 2021 – a record high – to 42% in Q4.

According to the latest numbers from IMLA, intermediaries processed an average of 26 decisions in principle (DIPs) in November 2021.

By December, however, this number had increased to 32 DIPs per intermediary.

The rise came with homeowners returning to the market to secure new fixed-rate mortgages before rising inflation and interest rates began to make products less affordable.

The business intermediaries handled throughout 2021 was broadly consistent: residential mortgages took up 65% of all cases, while buy-to-let took up 27% and specialist lending, 8%.

Kate Davies, executive director of IMLA, said: “The Stamp Duty holiday might have come to a close in September last year, but all signs point towards advisers keeping busy in the final months of 2021.

“The positive findings of our latest report clearly reflect this strong level of activity and the demand that underpins it.”

As caseload volumes increased to set new records in Q4 2021, Davies felt sure advisers had a solid foundation with which to begin 2022.

“With inflation potentially reaching 7% by April this year, and interest rates continuing to rise, we expect demand to remain strong in the mortgage market as borrowers try to lock into new fixed-rate deals and those with more complex financial situations seek support. Independent financial advice will be crucial for these customers, and advisers will play an important role in helping them to find the most suitable and affordable deal,” Davies added.