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Lenders have reintroduced physical valuations and higher loan-to-value lending after the government gave the green light to restart the housing market in England last week after seven weeks of lockdown.

Accord Mortgages announced today (May 20) that it is accepting residential applications up to 90 per cent LTV following the renewal of physical valuations.

Buy-to-let remortgages are currently available up to 65 per cent LTV, although a spokesperson for Accord said an announcement on this was due on Friday.

Meanwhile, Virgin Money and Clydesdale Bank confirmed “a wider range of products supported with a mix of physical and non-physical valuations” would be introduced next week, including residential mortgages up to 90 per cent LTV and buy-to-let mortgages up to 80 per cent LTV.

Temporary limits on loan sizes and property values will also be withdrawn.

Additionally, physical valuations will be booked in England for pipelines cases with Virgin Money and Clydesdale Bank that require such a valuation.

Some lenders had already resumed offering high LTVs last month. Halifax Intermediaries reintroduced lending up to 85 per cent LTV in April, followed by BM Solutions’ return to buy-to-let lending up to 75 per cent.

Nationwide also extended lending via brokers up to 85 per cent LTV after focussing support on existing borrowers and processing ongoing applications.

Providers had previously withdrawn high LTV lending after the government announced a lockdown on March 23, which effectively brought the property market to a halt.

Additionally, Nationwide has confirmed that valuers will be able to resume physical inspections this week (from May 18) after the government published its new guidance on moving home.

Likewise, Santander announced the following day (May 19) its valuation partners would aim to contact intermediaries’ clients, or the property owner, by May 29 to arrange a date for cases in England that required a physical inspection and had been put on hold.

It anticipated that most valuations will be carried out before June 10.

Santander said it would be holding rates while increasing the maximum loan size to £1m on some residential products, and to £750,000 on its buy-to-let range.

This followed recent changes from Santander such as raising the maximum LTV for residential lending to 85 per cent, and for buy-to-let remortgage products to 60 per cent LTV.

Meanwhile Leeds Building Society is working with Countrywide to complete the “outstanding minority” of valuations on mortgage applications as physical inspections resume in England.

Jaedon Green, chief customer officer at Leeds Building Society, said desktop valuations will continue to be used where appropriate and “for homeowners particularly concerned about social distancing, we’re also piloting external inspections which mean a valuer will still visit their home but doesn’t need to enter it”.

Specialist lenders have also been adapting to market conditions. As well as resuming physical valuations, on May 19 West One Loans relaunched buy-to-let products at 70 per cent LTV, subject to a maximum loan size of £250,000.

For many brokers the renewal of physical valuations is likely to be welcome news.

Andrew Brown, managing director at Bennison Brown, said the main challenge during lockdown was that an estimated 60 per cent of their cases were not suitable for remote valuation.

Commenting on the return of physical valuations and viewings, Mr Brown said: “It is likely to take some time to clear the backlogs and for consumers to gain confidence but it is the first major piece of good news we’ve had for some time.

“We hope this is the start of the recovery of our sector.”

Some advisers had pointed to issues with undervaluations as remote valuations were carried out during lockdown.

Kevin Dunn, director at Furnley House, said some of his remortgage clients, who had properties valued remotely, felt they would have received a higher figure if a physical valuation had been carried out.

By Chloe Cheung

Source: FT Adviser

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