Maisam Fazal is chief commercial officer at Al Rayan Bank
It’s been a turbulent few months for the housing market, with both demand and prices fluctuating as a result of the UK-wide lockdown. At present, the market is experiencing a record sales high, with numbers confirmed in July rocketing to their highest for 10 years.
The government’s stamp duty holiday, pent-up demand following the temporary interruption of the market, and changes to individuals’ circumstances, have all played their part in this surge. Since restrictions have been lifted, the UK housing market has seen the highest influx of properties since 2008, according to data from Rightmove’s House Price Index.
Try Adviser Network granted FCA permission to advise on Shariah mortgages
Current data paints a promising picture, with sales up 29% for some segments of the market. That said, it’s clear the property sector remains volatile, and caution should be taken. For example, recent insight from the Resolution Foundation predicts that buyers with smaller deposits will experience difficulties getting onto the property ladder in the months and years ahead. This is because, despite a predicted dip in house prices, many buyers are also experiencing a fall in income as well as greater difficulty in obtaining home finance, with some providers changing their eligibility criteria and requesting larger deposits.
These issues would be substantial enough for consumers to overcome in normal circumstances – let alone in a period of such economic uncertainty. That is why it is imperative for brokers to be aware of the vast number of issues and opportunities that exist.
Firstly, in the current climate, buyers are seeking more independent advice to help guide them. They may also be drawn to new-build homes, which have a more complex purchase process. This means brokers have an opportunity to engage with a wider demographic – that’s both high in demand and in need of expert advice – and offer their guidance and highly sought-after services.
Secondly, brokers should recognise the advantages of technology. It’s no secret that adoption of technology is accelerating, and lockdown appears to have served to increase this rate of acceleration. Consumers are demanding pace and efficiency, meaning that mobile app and online interactions may be better received by customers than emails and phone calls.
Additionally, in order to remain competitive, it’s worth taking advantage of online platforms that show products available to customers. Thanks to artificial intelligence, tech-enabled platforms can process customer data in one simple place and deliver a list of home finance options that are tailored to the customer’s specific requirements.
A further area of opportunity for brokers comes with those who are self-employed. Now, more than ever, people will be seeking guidance and clarity, both on what they should and are able to do, and brokers have the means to provide that support and fulfil this role – particularly for those newly joining the property market.
Finally, today’s landscape also provides an opportunity for brokers to review their business and look to support the alternative mortgage market, which is also expanding. At Al Rayan Bank we are seeing the level of residential home and property finance written reach almost record levels. Since lockdown measures have eased, a range of products have come back to market, aimed at helping buyers with different needs. It’s therefore in everyone’s interest for brokers to offer the broadest services they can, allowing to cash in on a huge market and appeal to the demand with the best offering for each individual.
Home Purchase Plans (HPPs) are an Islamic mortgage alternative based on the Islamic finance principles of co-ownership and leasing. It differs from a conventional mortgage by allowing customers to buy or refinance property as a partner with Al Rayan Bank and pay rent on the share that Al Rayan Bank owns, subsequently increasing their share in the property until they own it outright.
Though it’s difficult to fully gauge the impact of the lockdown at this stage, the housing market is a resilient sector and, working with banks and finance providers, the intermediary channel has a prime opportunity to take a step back and assess how exactly we can cater for new trends and demands in today’s new world.