Homefinder Service Update

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Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage.
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Can you explain the Homefinder service?

I think it’s important for people to realise that not all mortgage brokers just focus on the mortgage product. They focus on the entire process involved in purchasing a property.

With the Homefinder service we are involved in the purchasing process itself. We will negotiate on the client’s behalf with the estate agent. That’s important, because not everyone realises that the estate agent is actually acting on behalf of the seller, not the purchaser. We fill in that gap by representing our client.

That means that we negotiate for the best possible price for our client – it’s a valuable service because not everyone has that kind of experience or is interested in negotiating. They may not have done it before, they may not enjoy it or have the confidence to negotiate on something as important as a house purchase: because we’re talking about significant amounts of money here.

We can significantly improve the buying process by providing the customer with a better price, through our experience of doing this time after time. At the same time, we’re finding the right mortgage for the customer and that’s easier if we’ve managed to negotiate a reduced price – because they have to borrow significantly less.

Do you provide support once an offer is accepted?

Yes – we also provide other ancillary services which can make the entire purchase process easier. You’re going to need a lawyer for conveyancing services – but not all lawyers are good at that. Through years of doing this we’ve found the lawyers that provide the best possible conveyancing services for their customers.

If the conveyancing process goes awry because there’s a hurdle in the way, then through our business relationship we can get everything back on track. A derailment in the conveyancing process can cost you a lot of time.

If things drag on and on, the seller and estate agent may get nervous. There’s always a possibility they’ll pull the sale. That means the house you’ve wanted will no longer be there for you. We make sure that that doesn’t happen.

Until contracts are exchanged, there’s no financial penalty for the seller to pull out. So we make sure that there’s no reason to consider that. Our commitment to you is to ensure that the minute you contact us, we are fully involved in the process to keep it all glued together.

That’s basically what the Homefinder service is and it is, we believe, a unique service for our customers. We provide that degree of assurance in a potentially very stressful process. We make it as comfortable, easy and straightforward as we possibly can for you – and save you money.

Before you became a mortgage broker, you worked in the medical profession and bought a house. Was that difficult?

Most people out there won’t have huge experience of the process of buying a home – and there are unique challenges when you work in healthcare, as I found. One of them, obviously, is the fact that you tend to work long hours on shifts, which usually means unsociable hours.

By the time you finish work, estate agents are closed, lawyers are shut and so communicating with them can be difficult, stressful and challenging. Another thing that’s unique about hospitals is that you’re not at a desk. Finding a computer is often extremely challenging – and finding the time to sit down and use one is difficult too.

I worked in intensive care for years, and you can’t use a phone there. I worked in A&E as well and you can’t use a phone there either. In hospital you often can’t get a phone signal, so any kind of communication with anyone outside is impossible.

To get a signal, you have to go outside. And if you work in intensive care theatres, you won’t be allowed to leave because of infection control. If you’re lucky enough to find a computer, you may find that you don’t have access to personal email and the internet.

So there are unique challenges with communicating the outside world and anyone who’s been involved in buying a house knows that you need to go communicate somehow. If you can’t use email, you can’t use the internet and you can’t use your phone, then the whole process is extremely difficult.

And when you get home, all the people you need to speak to can’t take your phone calls or answer the emails you send. So the whole process can become elongated, challenging and extremely difficult as a result.

Did that inspire the Homefinder Service?

I found exactly those challenges and buying my first flat when I was a junior doctor was extremely difficult. If I’d had somebody to help me through that process it would have taken a huge amount of stress away.

I also have to say that I didn’t know a huge amount about property and finance and I didn’t realise how much was involved. As a healthcare worker, I didn’t have the skill sets required in purchasing something of that kind of size, dealing with agents and lawyers – that’s not my background.

It’s not something you learn at university or in training to be a doctor or on the wards. So everything from finding the property to getting the keys can be extremely difficult. In my case it probably took six months longer than it should have. What I’d like to do is protect people from the hell that I went through during those nine months. It wasn’t a pleasant experience and I had an awful lot on my plate as it was, learning to be a doctor.

You felt that the whole process took longer – was that because you didn’t have somebody working on your side?

Yes, that’s true. There was no one, for example, to negotiate with the estate agent. I was guessing how much the property was worth with no real experience. I didn’t know the tools I could use to get a more accurate value. In the end, I found out I paid way too much for it.

I also completely underestimated the complexity and difficulties of the process, made worse by coming from Scotland where we have a completely different property law system. So there was no-one in my family I could talk to, because they know the Scottish system, not the English system.

As doctors, we generally underestimate other careers. There is this feeling in the healthcare world that what we do is the hardest possible job in the world – and there is an element of truth to that, it’s a very challenging career. There’s an awful lot at stake, but I still underestimated the complexities of buying a house.

You need the right lawyer, you need the right mortgage, you’ve got to make sure you don’t pay too much for the property and make sure the sales process stays on track. If you’ve never done it before, it’s a very steep learning curve. You don’t have enough time in that six or seven month window to learn it all. In my case, by the time I did, it was too late.

So I think the best solution is to take that process out of your hands and delegate it to someone who does it every day. When I became a mortgage broker I again underestimated exactly what’s involved and how difficult it can be. So I’m even more convinced of the importance of finding the right broker to bring it all together.

It’s not just a matter of getting the right price, it’s not just a matter of making sure that you actually get property you want and take the stress out of the process. If you’re working 10 or 11 hours a day, you’ve got enough stress to deal with. Everyone will need to buy somewhere to live at some stage, and you’re going to be working while you’re doing that to have to pay for it.

You can either do it the easy way, in my view, which is to go via a mortgage broker like ourselves, or you get the hard route like I did. I would advise anyone to take the easy route. Life is too short to add that kind of stress to your life when you don’t need to.

If you’d had a Homefinder service when you needed it, how much would you have been happy to pay for that?

It’s easy to answer that now because I know how much I overpaid for my first flat. I would be prepared to have paid thousands, especially if I’d known exactly how much it was going to cost me. The problem, of course, was that service wasn’t in existence when I was buying my first flat.

You’ve got to ask yourself about the craziness of trying to do something like this yourself with no experience. If you break your leg, you don’t try and fix it yourself. If you cut yourself in the garden, you don’t try and stitch yourself back together again – you go and see a doctor. If you’ve got toothache, you don’t try to extract the tooth yourself, you speak to a dentist.

Buying a house in the UK is no insignificant purchase – you’re talking large sums of money and an awful lot can go wrong. But when I did that there wasn’t an organisation or agency offering the kind of service that we’re offering today. For me that would be an easy decision because I wouldn’t want to go through that again.

So what exactly could a client expect from the Homefinder service?

The minute you come in contact with myself, I will be there on the end of the phone or an email or a text until the minute you get the keys. Having that degree of contact and support throughout the entire process is extremely valuable. It’s not just that I can give you advice and assurance and confidence during the process. I’m also confident that I can get you a better price for the property you’re interested in.

I can reduce your monthly mortgage payments because I’ll find you the right product. I’ll ensure that you have the right lawyer so the process goes quickly and smoothly, and you’ll get the property in a reasonable time frame. I will take the stress out of the process for you.

I also have experience around unique work situations, from working in healthcare. You might be on a short term contract or have complex pay slips due to extra shift work, allowances or overtime payments.

I can present that information to the lender in a way to get you the right mortgage product. You can be confident that you’ll get what you need, so you can concentrate on your career, your job, your patients. I know myself how demanding that is – it needs your entire focus. You can’t afford to be spending half an hour here, half an hour there, popping out, trying to find a desk, trying to find access to email to try and get this process through on your own. I’ve tried. It’s extremely difficult.

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