While the housing market remains buoyant, there’s another group that are offering new opportunities to mortgage brokers - home improvers.
According to research by NatWest and S&P Global, 22 per cent of property owners are planning home improvements over the next year - this is up from 16 per cent last year. Figures also showed that many homeowners who had been planning to upgrade over the next decade have actually been bringing their projects forward.
This is an interesting development in light of wider issues in the housing market, from demand exceeding supply to rising interest rates making it tougher for some people to pay off a mortgage.
With factors such as these in mind, it makes perfect sense that many will focus on enhancing their current home instead, both to boost its value and to make it a more desirable property and to make it better suit their current lifestyles.
This could open up a significant new market for mortgage brokers to explore. After all, many of these property owners will be looking for ways to pay for major home improvement projects, and that falls well within a broker’s area of expertise.
What does this mean for brokers?
Mortgage brokers could capitalise on this demand by advising property owners on ways of financing their home improvements, such as remortgaging a property or increasing an existing mortgage.
This could represent a sizable and expanding market for brokers, one that could be set to grow steadily in size over the next few months and years.
By actively engaging with property improvers as well as buyers and movers, brokers have an opportunity to showcase a different side of their offering and build a brand new client base.
At the same time, now might be the time when brokers need to look beyond attracting new clients, but focus as well on solidifying and strengthening their existing client relationships so they stay loyal.
The nature of what these clients want might encourage them to stick with the same broker and come back for advice every few years, rather than just when they’re buying a house.
So the time and effort spent on engaging with existing clients, delighting them and showing you understand their needs and priorities could well be worth it.
Responding to a changing economic environment requires a degree of flexibility and innovation, and this home improvement trend could be a perfect chance for mortgage brokers to show they are moving with the times and understand what people want and care about.
What improvements do people want?
Energy efficient upgrades, such as fitting insulation, double-glazed windows and reduced-capacity baths, appear to be particularly popular with property owners. This is no surprise when we consider the soaring cost of energy, as people make an upfront investment to make their monthly pay packets go further.
People’s changing working habits are also dictating the type of improvements people are going for.
For example, the latest Home Improvement Report from Barbour ABI shows that between 2019 and 2021, applications for home offices went up by 250 per cent. Although many people were forced to work from home as a result of the pandemic, this suggests that a huge number of us have chosen to embrace remote working, and are setting up our homes to make them the ideal workplace.
The Barbour ABI survey revealed that applications for both lofts and extensions have gone up by almost a third in the last three years, while applications for garden buildings have risen by nearly half.
Again, this points to people spending more time at home and looking to make the best possible use of the space they have available.
According to the Barbour ABI report, the home improvement market has benefited from a £200 billion pot that consumers accumulated as a result of lockdown restrictions. So not only has the pandemic inspired a huge change in lifestyle for many of us, it’s also indirectly given some of us the financial means to plough ahead with changing our homes to suit.
Where is demand for home improvement highest?
The south-east of England appears to be the main hotspot of activity right now, with the Barbour ABI report showing that seven of the top ten performing areas are in Hertfordshire, Essex and Surrey.
The south-east came top of the list of areas with the biggest spending on home improvement, with an average of £9,000 being spent by households in this part of the country. This was followed by the east of England (£6,000), the south-west (£4,500) and London (£3,100).
On the face of it, it appears as if there’s something of a north-south divide when it comes to home improvements. But that’s not actually the case.
The biggest increases in the number of applications were seen in the east of England (24 per cent), the North-East and West Midlands (22 per cent) and York & Humberside, the South-West and Scotland (21 per cent).
As the habits and behaviours of property owners change, it’s vital that mortgage brokers adapt accordingly, so they can add value to their clients, provide relevant, targeted advice and capitalise on the evolution that’s happening in the marketplace.
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