Has housing affordability peaked?

Broker gives verdict on whether there should be a return of Help To Buy

Has housing affordability peaked?

The challenge of housing affordability is reaching its peak as cost-of-living pressures take their toll on prospective homebuyers, according to broker Ali Habib-Ur.

Habib-Ur (pictured ), who is mortgage and protection manager at broker firm Access Financial Services, believes that affordable housing must be a top priority for the government and is urging the return of the Help To Buy scheme.

“There are continuing challenges in the UK,” said Habib-Ur, who described as ‘concerning’ the decision by some lenders to put up their rates recently.

“I think the pressure on affordability is peaking right now. The cost-of-living crisis and recession means people have fewer savings than before COVID because everyday items and mortgage costs are higher.

“Affordable housing has never been delivered to a standard where it’s affordable for most people. New housing developments are usually extremely expensive, and with very little affordable housing included.”

Referencing Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Habib-Ur said: “Mr Gove has said the Government is planning to offer a 1% deposit mortgage scheme but there’s no indication of how this would work, and no lender has specified the criteria.

“The 0% deposit scheme launched by Skipton has had its ups and downs, with very tough criteria. All the 1% and 0% mortgage deals come with high interest rates attached.”

Why providing affordable housing should be a top priority

Habib-Ur wants to see greater focus on putting property purchases within the reach of those struggling with the day-to-day costs of living in the UK currently, especially within its capital city.

“Providing affordable housing must be a top priority,” he said. “I would like to see much more affordable housing in London, in particular. I’d also like to see the Help-to-Buy scheme brought back. It had its faults, but it enabled me to help people onto the property ladder who otherwise would not have been able to afford it.

“I think there are positive changes coming. I always say that buying a house is like having a haircut - even when the price is down, its value will grow back. Over the next 12 months will be a good time to buy a house because purchase prices are low even if interest rates are relatively high, which means a buyer can negotiate.”

He added: “In a year’s time, I think the market will pick up, rates will drop and prices will go up. By the beginning of 2025, we will hopefully be in a different and more positive financial market.”

Habib-Ur said that knowing about each lender and really understanding their criteria is key for advisors, so it becomes easier when they are in front of a client. Brokers need simpler criteria from lenders, to better understand their requirements, he believes.

“If these could be clearer and easier to understand and implement in real life, business would boom,” Habib-Ur suggested. “There is a great need for constant dialogue with intermediaries - we need to understand each other’s needs and responsibilities better.

The London-based broker is a self-employed financial adviser for Access Financial Services, focusing mostly on mortgages, as well as covering protection.

“I have clients all over the country so my job involves some travel, but I also work from home, saving on time and cost,” Habib-Ur explained. “I was born in France but moved to London in my teens. As a child I wanted to be a cricketer, but reality soon kicked in. My first jobs in London were in retail and I worked as a manager, supervisor and in security.

“Then in 2018 I met a friend who introduced me to our regional manager at Access, Matt Saeed. Matt interviewed me for a role at Access and I haven’t looked back since. I started out as an insurance broker but was keen to grow my career.

“I became a financial adviser, firstly working in pensions and investments, and then gained my CeMAP in 2021. I wanted a career that I could do my way and in my own time and the life/work balance my job offers is great.”

Read more: How can brokers be more successful?

What is the job satisfaction of being a broker?

Habib-Ur particularly loves being able to help clients.

“I get enormous satisfaction from supporting them to get on the ladder and achieve their dream of home ownership,” he shared. “They are so appreciative. After marriage, one of the main life events is buying your own home. I’m from Pakistan and, in my culture, home ownership is a real sign of success.

“I want to continue helping clients achieve their goals and dreams and to continue learning. To know more is to help more. I’d also like to go into commercial mortgages and bridging loans.”

He noted: “Since COVID, I have improved the quality of my advice. I think now I would emphasise, more than I did before COVID, that markets can fluctuate really quickly. I would better prepare clients for change, such as that a 0% rate isn’t permanent. I’m much more likely now to offer five-year, fixed rate mortgages because they offer more stability than two-year fixed rate mortgages. I have had to adapt and to keep learning.”

What, in Habib-Ur’s view, makes a good broker?

“Communication is key,” he said. “You need a clear vision, and to be positive about the process and what you are going to do for the client. It’s also helpful if you can delegate admin as this frees you up to do more with the client. Adaptability is also very important.”

Living in London with his wife and two children, Habib-Ur likes to make the most of his time away from his job, though he never strays far from his work…

“I go to the gym first thing in the morning and love plenty of family holidays abroad, especially beach holidays,” he said. “Last year, we went to Egypt, Pakistan, Tunisia and Morocco. Next month, we’re off to Istanbul which I’m very excited about as I’ve never been to Turkey. But being a broker means you never quite switch off so where I go, my laptop goes too!”