Diary of a broker on the frontline of mortgage mayhem


The mortgage market descended into chaos last week, amid fears interest rates could hit as high as 6 per cent next spring. 

As group director of JLM Mortgage Services, a Hitchin-based broker that handles 12,000 home-loan applications each year, Sebastian Murphy, 48, was on the front line of the mayhem. 

Here he tells Fiona Parker how the week unfolded – and gives his top tips for borrowers…

Hectic days: Sebastian Murphy (pictured) is group director of JLM Mortgage Services, a Hitchin-based broker that handles 12,000 home-loan applications each year

Hectic days: Sebastian Murphy (pictured) is group director of JLM Mortgage Services, a Hitchin-based broker that handles 12,000 home-loan applications each year

September 23

It’s 7am and I am at my desk. As director of the firm, I still write around 30 mortgages a month and spend much of my day talking to clients. Like any broker, we help customers find the best deal for their circumstances. The past two years have been chaotically busy and I am hopeful today’s mini-Budget could bring some stability.

The rumoured stamp duty cut was a concern, but fortunately this one will not pour petrol on the market as it is not as generous as the discount offered during the pandemic and there is no cliff-edge deadline.

Since February, it has become the norm for lenders to re-price mortgage deals weekly rather than just once a month or so. 

Soon after the mini-Budget, as the pound wobbles, Halifax confirms that it will be re-pricing deals early next week.

Hopefully, it will not be the first of many.

September 26

The pound has plummeted. Halifax is not just re-pricing deals but withdrawing all home loans which come with a fee.

This afternoon, Virgin Money says it will pull all mortgages for new customers by 8 pm tonight. Other lenders soon follow. It is all hands on deck for our 110 brokers as we hit the phones to tell borrowers what is happening.

On a normal day I speak to around 20 customers. Today, I get through more than 60. These conversations are not easy. Most of them are with people looking to remortgage.

When you’re telling someone paying 2 per cent interest that their best bet is a 4 per cent deal, you can’t be offended if they question whether that really is the case.

If a customer wants a fixed deal, we make it clear they must act quickly before it vanishes. Fortunately, most buyers we speak to are able to negotiate down asking prices with sellers and don’t have to pull out of sales.

But many first-time buyers want to know if they would be better off waiting for cheaper rates to return. Our brokers stay late to get through the workload and some are still in the office at 11pm.

Grim reality: Customers currently paying around 2% interest are being told that their best bet is a 4% deal

Grim reality: Customers currently paying around 2% interest are being told that their best bet is a 4% deal

September 27

Mortgages are being pulled thick and fast. Nationwide, Britain’s biggest lender, confirms it will be hiking its five-year rates for borrowers with 5 per cent and 10 per cent deposits.

Customers are starting to panic and brokers are waking up at 6am to find half a dozen emails already in their inbox. Some clients are contacting us at 4am because they can’t sleep.

WhatsApp messages and texts are also arriving at every hour of the day and night.

Even those who do manage to secure a deal are not necessarily thrilled with the result.

I take a call from a customer whose 1.45 per cent fix is coming to an end. He was offered a 3.11 per cent deal by another broker, but that was ten days ago. Today, the best he can get is a 4 per cent five-year fix.

He agrees, but it means he will be paying £3,240 extra each year. That’s more than anyone feared their energy bill would rise by.

Many first-time buyers want to know if they would be better off waiting for cheaper rates to return

Many first-time buyers want to know if they would be better off waiting for cheaper rates to return

September 28

I wake up wondering how many deals will disappear today.

It usually takes five minutes before I can sign someone up to an HSBC mortgage. However, yesterday, I was waiting for two hours after starting off at 1,092 in the queue. Later, the bank confirms it will not be offering any more mortgages that day.

It means we are all up early this morning, hoping to secure the rates customers wanted yesterday. 

I am trying to increase my chances by logging in with my laptop and smartphone simultaneously. I have personally written 27 mortgages over the past 48 hours.

September 29

Sobering headlines confirm nearly 1,000 mortgages have been pulled since Tuesday morning.

Fortunately, some lenders are still allowing existing customers to switch to new deals with them and we start focusing on these applications — after previously prioritising borrowers who wanted to switch to a different bank or building society.

I’m exhausted and I do think some of these rates being offered are unreasonable. Some lenders are clearly setting rates high because they cannot cope with the increased demand.

September 30

Some borrowers are very upset and I speak to a particularly distressed woman whose mortgage is due to expire in August next year.

Even if she was to lock in to a new deal now, before rates rise further, the best option available will hike her repayments from £1,400 to £1,750. 

She is worried she will not able to afford such an increase along with other rising costs, and her tears force us to pause our conversation a few times.

It is heart-breaking.

Currency crisis: After the pound plummeted in response to Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng's ill-received mini budget,  the mortgage market took an immediate hit

Currency crisis: After the pound plummeted in response to Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s ill-received mini budget,  the mortgage market took an immediate hit

October 3

News of the Government’s U-turn prompts customers to start asking if cheaper rates will return. So far, this is not the case.

One borrower is offered a 6.14 per cent two-year fix by Santander, his current lender. We haven’t seen rates this high in more than a decade.

Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing what will happen in the coming months.

But if you are less than six months away from your deal expiring, it may be worth securing another fix today ready for when you remortgage. Just be sure to ask about exit fees.

I’m not convinced trackers that look cheap now are a good idea if rates are going to keep rising.

But whatever you do, don’t roll on to a standard variable rate.

[email protected]

  • JLM is a whole of market intermediary firm which receives fees from lenders in return for the advice and recommendations it offers borrowers. Around 5 per cent of customers – those applying for smaller loans — may have to pay a fee, which is capped at £595.
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