What's the biggest challenge for mortgage clients?

Specialist broker highlights the dilemma facing borrowers

What's the biggest challenge for mortgage clients?

One of the key challenges for clients in the current mortgage market is resolving the rate versus fee dilemma, according to an award-winning broker.

George Sanford (pictured), a specialist mortgage adviser at VIBE Finance, identified the conundrum facing borrowers, but sounded an optimistic note about the market as a whole.

“I think the start to 2024 has overall been very positive for the mortgage market,” Sanford told Mortgage Introducer. “Rates decreased probably slightly further and faster than most were expecting, which was a nice surprise.

“I think one of the main challenges facing clients is the low rate / high fee vs high rate / low fee dilemma. With some lenders charging arrangement fees as high as 10% of the loan amount, it is easy to be swayed by the lower pay rate. But clients should always make sure they/their broker is checking the overall cost of borrowing on a case.”

He continued: “I think 2024 will be fairly stable for the specialist mortgage market, with a slight downward trend in interest rates. All in all, I think this will lead to more investors looking to acquire new assets as well and refinancing existing properties to raise equity for these purchases.”

How could the general election impact the mortgage industry?

Of course, a general election is also on the horizon this year, which could impact Sanford and other brokers’ day-to-day work.

“In the specialist and investment world I think the political changes that would impact me and my clients would more be around tax for landlords/properties,” he commented, “and also planning changes to increase the ability for investors to create new dwellings, whether that be new builds or conversions of existing property.”

Sanford has been with Hampshire-based broker VIBE for nearly three years. The business is primarily engaged in property-based finance for commercial and residential property investments, including buy-to-let, HMO (houses in multiple occupation), commercial, semi-commercial, bridging, refurbishment and development loans.

The breadth of work that his role brings is appreciated by Sanford.

“I help clients with pretty much any type of investment property finance ,” he elaborated. “The variety of cases that I deal with means no two days are the same. I especially enjoy the more complex or challenging cases, whether that be larger development deals involving multiple assets or a foreign national investing in the UK for the first time.”

Sanford temporarily worked as a builder, before finding his feet in specialist finance, and working for J.P. Morgan. In 2022, he won an industry award for rising star in the specialist sector, though his career could have been very different.

“Like most young boys, the dream was professional footballer,” he shared. “However, my skill levels didn’t quite match the ambition. Following that, was the idea to work in sport science & analysis – however, I eventually found my way into the financial services world and, since joining VIBE in April 2021, haven’t looked back since.

“I’ve become far more confident in my own knowledge and abilities as I’ve progressed in my career, meaning I am now able to hold a higher quality conversation with a wider variety of clients on a wider range of subjects. If I could go back, I would have got myself out to more in-person events at the start of my career to learn from others and build my personal brand, although the tail end of COVID would have made that tricky.”

Read next: VIBE Finance moves to new premises and hires two new case managers

What makes a good mortgage broker?

Sanford believes there are certain qualities which define a good broker.

“All the normal things, communication, timeliness and good knowledge,” he considered. “But I think just as important is recognising when you don’t know something and having the confidence to realise that and ask the right people to ensure you can go back accurately.”

In his view, there are some integral elements to the way brokers and lenders work together.

“I think open communication and transparent decision making is always key to broker/lender relationships,” Sanford observed. “Luckily we have a fantastic working relationship with almost all the lenders we regularly work with which makes that much easier.”

In terms of the best business lesson he has learned, Sanford lives by a trusted piece of productivity advice that he enigmatically calls ‘Swallow The Frog’.

“If you have bad news to give someone then it’s best to get it done ASAP, although preferably with a solution or plan B ready to put into action,” he suggested. “The news won’t get any better if you sit on it all day and it’s more likely to drag the rest of your work down than help things at all.”

Football is still part of Sanford’s life, albeit outside of work, alongside trips to the gym – to keep fit and switch off from the world of mortgages. He also enjoys spending time with his wife and one-year-old daughter, at home. But, clearly ambitious, he is eyeing continued career development.

“I’d like to progress further at VIBE, increasing responsibilities and expanding my role within the company,” he declared. “Working on larger and more complex deals is always something I’m looking to do as well.”