What a year and such a challenge in 2020; it’s hard to put into words exactly what the impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been on our lives over the last 12 months. It has certainly brought a lot of change to our working lives and perhaps forced businesses to reassess some of the assumptions about best practices or develop new strategies for continuing to work effectively in a different set of circumstances.
From the perspective of a specialist in the buy-to-let mortgage market, the last year has highlighted the benefits to be gained by focusing on our technical capabilities and how improvements to our online processes can provide a more efficient service to customers. It also made us rethink our approach to team-working within the business.
To start with, everyone at Buy-to-let Direct was immediately asked to work from home at the beginning of the first lockdown in March. This was arranged remarkably quickly and without fuss, especially considering we have always been an office-based business. It meant that we all became remote workers and online conferencing took on a life of its own, with Microsoft Teams becoming our channel of choice.
Although this has required staff to adapt, it has also taught us new ways of communicating and allowed a more flexible approach to working, especially for those who have young children at home needing supervision during these unusual times.
Throughout the buy-to-let mortgage sector, we have seen an increase in the use of digital communications to maintain relationships between lenders, brokers and clients, which has highlighted the need for service providers to keep improving their online capabilities to meet the changing demands of customers.
In general, the demand for buy-to-let finance has remained high throughout the pandemic and once the housing market reopened after the initial shutdown, there has been a surge in buy-to-let mortgage business spurred on by the stamp duty holiday. Buy-to-let continues to be a viable investment opportunity, especially in a financial environment offering such low interest rates on savings.
During 2020, the continuing interest in limited company buy-to-let was apparent with a significant proportion of applications at Buy-to-let Direct being via a corporate entity. This is unsurprising given the buy-to-let mortgage interest tax relief was finally phased out in April 2020, and the high demand for limited company finance is likely to continue in 2021.
Coronavirus also brought an unexpected boon for the holiday let sector as more people opted for UK staycations and the demand soared for properties in popular resorts and other desirable locations. This has led to a wider range of products for investors to choose from as lenders have developed their propositions to service this niche sector.
It looks as though the uncertainty brought by Covid-19 in 2020 is likely to continue during the early part of 2021 and those working in the mortgage industry will have to remain flexible and open to change as we wait for situation to play out. However, there will be plenty of proactive ways to face the unknown challenges ahead and sometimes unexpected change can bring unexpected opportunities.
At Buy-to-let Direct, our main priority is maintaining good communications with our finance providers and landlord clients; harnessing technology to deliver a better service. We have also developed greater understanding of the challenges facing landlords, becoming better at empathising and looking for creative solutions to individual needs.
No doubt 2021 will be another interesting year in the buy-to-let sector and one that provides us with the opportunity to effect change – for the better.