Why the mortgage market is due to be shaken up by the tech revolution

Daniel Hegarty
Property Owners Braced For Interest Rate Hike
Six per cent of London homeowners said that applying for their mortgage was the most stressful experience of their life (Source: Getty)

Scaling the housing ladder can feel like climbing Everest and nowhere more so than in the capital.

From saving every penny for a first deposit, to scouring the tube map for the next undiscovered, reasonably priced gem, the affordability challenges are well documented.

But there are other unnecessary challenges driven by an outdated industry that has seen no innovation for decades.

Read more: UK mortgage lending dipped in April as stamp duty changes hit

Somehow, in an age of driverless cars and virtual reality, mortgages have been completely untouched by the tech revolution.

The impact for consumers is significant. Not only are they paying over the odds for mis-matched mortgages, but the antiquated process leaves them unable to keep pace with a housing market moving at light speed.

Even after all their effort, scrimping and saving, they risk being pipped to the post time and again as the race for the best properties defeats them.

On open days, they stand shoulder to shoulder with the competition, rushing to decide whether to part with hundreds of thousands of pounds in less time than it took to pick their coffee on the way there.

And the process only gets faster and more aggressive as demand grows. Sellers often have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to bids. Only the most convincing offer wins.

Read more: One in three UK mortgage holders don't know their interest rate

That means having a mortgage agreed quickly can be the difference between landing the ideal property and missing out.

It is unsurprising then that in our recent poll of London homeowners, one in 10 said they had been anxious about whether or not they would get their mortgage in time to buy their dream home.

For one in five, the process took as long as two to three months, and for another eight per cent it was four to five.

And it's not just a problem of speed. Like many other aspects of finance, mortgages have been kept unnecessarily complex by those that benefit from their opacity.

Again, our poll speaks for itself, 16 per cent are confused by mortgage products and jargon, 15 per cent are overwhelmed, and the same proportion frustrated at the long and complicated process.

Shockingly, six per cent of London homeowners said that applying for their mortgage was the most stressful experience of their life. That might not sound statistically high, but think of it in real terms. It’s probably several people in every carriage of the packed tube you took to work today.

Read more: Mortgage lending in London rises 41 per cent

It shouldn’t be this way. And in my view, it won’t be for very much longer.

Mortgages, one of the last bastions of the traditional financial industry, are finally being dragged into the 21st century.

Last month, HSBC launched the first 24 hour mortgage. How that plays out in practice is yet to be seen, but it is a step in the right direction and could help house hunters see off the competition when they spot their ideal home.

A new breed of digital mortgage companies is emerging, using algorithms, automation and machine learning to do jobs in minutes and seconds that previously took hours, days or weeks.

Now that change is upon us, I have no doubt more innovation will follow. Not only is this about good customer service, it’s about good business.

Mortgages today are a near £1 trillion industry. But most people will allow their mortgage to stagnate as the process is too painful to even consider shopping around more often than is absolutely essential.

Now imagine a world where you can apply quickly and easily from your phone, wherever you may be, and get a robustly checked approval in principle the same day.

In that world, re-mortgaging could become commonplace, meaning the most competitive and innovative businesses in the market have much to gain.

Think Funding Circle in marketplace lending, TransferWise in remittances, and PayPal in payment processing.

We aren’t there yet. But in the next 10 years technology will radically disrupt and revolutionise the mortgage market. We are entering a new, technology enabled, phase of home buying, one that is going to have to do a far better job for consumers.

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