So the year has started off with a glimmer of good news - gross mortgage lending is forecast to increase again this year.
The Council of Mortgage Lender forecasts said that 2012 will have ended on around £144bn gross, itself a good result compared to the woeful 2011, but also that 2013 would see £156bn being achieved.
That's an 8% increase, and with house price inflation pretty much flat, that will go on increased volumes of transactions rather than just price drift. Nice.
So what can we do to ensure that this uplift comes in our direction - borrowed by customers of the intermediary sector - rather than through bank and building society branches and call centres?
Why we must be unrelenting in drive to improve the quality of mortgage case submissions
Well there is one certain way - that is to be unrelenting in the drive to continue to improve the quality of the mortgage business that intermediaries give to lenders, and give them no reason to look elsewhere.
That's both the quality of the customer and the quality of the case submission.
For the customer, two points. First, from the feedback we hear, it is getting slightly easier to place more difficult cases with lenders who still do individual underwriting and are prepared to take a view. Second though, we'd hope everyone realises by now that there is no point trying to force a non-perfect case through any of the mainstream lenders.
On the case quality, there still seems to be some work to do. Lenders still tell us they get cases which they have to 'repair' or 'rework'. These are cases which are incomplete, or which don't fit the published criteria for the product that they have been sent in on.
These cases take lenders lots of time and effort to progress to a state where they can be offered. Lots of phone calls or chasing emails. Lots of frustration all round.
What they really want is cases which are 'right first time' - and we as intermediaries should be able to deliver this. It is not rocket science. Checking everything again before submitting the case should be second nature.
So this year we have an opportunity. It is an opportunity to show lenders that they don't need to increase their branch adviser numbers or put more staff into their call centres, since they can rely on the intermediary market to produce consistently good quality mortgage business that can be processed efficiently.
If we keep doing a fantastic job for our clients, being there for them and their families all their lives, why would they ever want to go anywhere else? And if we properly protect ALL their needs they will trust us and always value our professionalism should bad news strike.
After all, what other profession has the luxury of choosing which client need they deal with and which they don't... that doesn't sound very like a trusted profession to me. We are better than that.
It is in our own hands.
Duncan Crocker is managing director at Legal & General Network
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