As with many other industries, significant technological advancements have occurred within the property sector at a fairly regular pace throughout the last few decades. However, all that changed upon the introduction of severe COVID-19 restrictions.
Tight regulations regarding social distancing and other methods of preventing contact-related infection were quickly put in place as the pandemic began to spread exponentially in early 2020.
During the start of the UK’s first nationwide “lockdown”, which, in England, ran from the end of March to mid-July, many mortgage agreements were withdrawn or put on hold. This was mainly due to the ban on in-person valuations and other potentially risky activities.
The significant market stagnation that occurred during “lockdown” came as a major blow, and immediately evidenced the importance of developing new methods to enable property valuations, secure sales and other interactions to go ahead.
As a result, mortgage and home finance tech saw swifter and more significant advances throughout the first half of 2020 than it had in almost any year previously. Many of these changes now remain in place indefinitely – and it is very likely that more are to come.
In this article, we look at just a few of the advances that have already been made, along with the implications for the future of mortgages and home finance.
In the past, meetings with a mortgage broker were commonly conducted face-to-face, with paperwork completed manually.
This meant that a large number of professionals within this field did not require their own website. An email address and phone number represented sufficient contact information to allow for any form of remote communication.
However, social distancing rules prevented the majority of these meetings from going ahead in person. As a result, many professionals in the mortgage and home finance industry have had to go digital – with virtual meetings taking the place of on-site interactions.
Flooded email inboxes and answer machines have been relieved somewhat by automated chatbots and online FAQs too, streamlining the roles of these professionals and giving the client greater autonomy.
According to Ruban Selvanayagam from quick cash home sale specialists Property Solvers: “with a second lockdown in force, the need for digital banking and mortgage services has arguably never been more necessary. There’s a strong argument to suggest that coronavirus has actually accelerated the growth of this space.”
Another result of this overwhelming move towards digital platforms is the option for “self service”.
The aforementioned chatbots play a significant role here; they enable clients to type their questions or requests into a chat window, where pre-set answers are then provided according to the key words and terms used in the clients’ initial query.
In this way, service users can actively find useful information of their own volition, streamlining much of the process.
CRM systems and help desks are also extremely handy in these contexts, as they can allow documents and records to be uploaded, downloaded or securely stored. This information can then be easily accessed by relevant bodies, giving clients an element of ownership and making the process easier for the service provider.
These types of self-service, along with many more, were already in development before the arrival of COVID-19, but this occurrence has increased their necessity and sped up their implementation significantly.
Valuation and Viewing
While in-person property valuation and viewing is now permitted, there are still severe restrictions in place – and many people are, understandably, cautious about entering a property inhabited by individuals outside of their “bubble”.
To make the process safer, remote valuation and viewing methods have been – and continue to be – developed. These include interactive digital property “tours” and video footage of home “walkthroughs”.
Of course, these techniques are not always foolproof – for example, major structural issues can easily be missed or hidden if no one is there to inspect “in person”. However, as time goes by, the available options are becoming more trustworthy and easier to utilise.
Identification and Security
Identification is one of the issues that arises time and time again when discussing remote transactions. After all, it can be very easy to pose as someone else if all vital information is being shared digitally without a manual signature.
However, specialists in home finance tech are now turning to extremely sophisticated methods to prevent fraud and other criminal activity. E-signatures are rarely sufficient; now, many businesses are using facial and vocal recognition methods to keep transactions secure.
We’re likely to see even more impressive advances in the fields of security and client ID in the near future, making it possible for every step in the mortgage lending and home finance process to be undertaken remotely – even the most sensitive interactions.
While COVID-19 has had a significant negative impact on the property industry throughout 2020, its implications have prompted a major boom in the world of property finance technology.
Many of these changes are here to stay, and future advancements are likely to continue revolutionising the sector for years to come.
From the basic issues of in-person valuation and office-based meetings to complex matters regarding information security, ingenious solutions continue to be developed and improved like never before, giving mortgage lending and its related fields a new lease of life.