The past year has been a whirlwind and no-one could have guessed what a pandemic would do to the housing market, but what we have seen is a boom as opposed to a bust.
Many first-time buyers have gotten their feet on the property ladder as they had no holidays or other expenses to fund last year, this has allowed many to save for a deposit much quicker than normal, whilst others have seized the opportunity to move into larger homes helped by money saved with the government’s stamp duty holiday.
One person who knows the mortgage market inside out and is in a position to help those still thinking about making a move is Philip Kerr of the Mortgage Shop in Portadown.
With a wealth of experience spanning 27 years in the industry – the last 17 of which have been spent at the Market Street branch – in his own words Philip has “seen it all”.
Speaking to Armagh I, the 48-year-old said: “The Mortgage Shop was founded in 1992 and I opened my branch here on July 2004 after gaining 10 years’ experience in the financial services sector.
The branch was starting to see some success around in 2006 and early 2007 and the financial crash happened which had a devastating effect on the housing market luckily with the experience of myself and my staff coupled and with our loyal client base we overcame the challenging years that followed and we have grown to be probably the biggest broker in the town.
According to Philip, he has seen generations of families pass through the doors of the Portadown branch making their first home purchase.
“I have been in Financial Services for 27 years and not many can say that. I used to collect insurance around Armagh and now I am helping some of those clients’ children, who were in prams at the time, get the mortgage for their first home.
This demonstrates a high level of trust as my existing clients are happy to recommend me to family and friends”.
Explaining the trends in the market over the last 18 months, Philip said that along with an increase in first time buyers there was also a rise with next time buyers, those moving from the three bed to the four bed home or gaining a larger garden.
He said: “A lot of people have been spending more time at home and realised that they needed more space or maybe it’s first-time buyers who want to move out from their parents’ homes.
The landlord market has also seen changes with some selling their existing house, which has led to a market of new landlords.”
“Undoubtable during the pandemic getting a mortgage was a lot tougher.” Philip said lenders appetite to risk had tightened, deposits required were around 25% in a lot of cases whereas now these have dropped back to more manageable levels with some lenders offering deposits of just 5%.
NI Co-ownership was also a big help to the mortgage market over this period as it was in same case the only option, for a people over this period.
According to Philip the market is now buoyant but a lack of housing stock has resulted in the demand outweighing supply.
Philip said that the branch had to adapt through the pandemic, like many businesses, incorporating the new technology such as Zoom and Teams along with the traditional methods has made us more efficient.
“It also allows to reach to clients all over Northern Ireland and beyond. However, many still prefer the benefit of face-to-face advice which we can accommodate in a controlled covid friendly environment.
With a lot of banks now closing or restructuring their mortgage advice to online services. More people than ever are wanting to avail of the services of a mortgage broker.
Philip was also quick to point out that he has a duty of care to all of his clients throughout the term of their mortgage.
“We don’t just forget about them once they get the keys to their new home,” he said.
“Before their current fixed rate deal is up, we will get in touch with them to discuss further options. After all, this is the biggest financial commitment that anyone makes in their lifetime and we are always at hand to help them through it”.