For many self-employed individuals, the process of applying for a mortgage can be extremely frustrating, with long waiting periods between approvals and the continued need to provide evidence showing that you can pay back monthly repayments.

However, with COVID-19, this process has continued to take a turn for the worse, with many banks refusing to offer mortgages to the self-employed.

CIA Landlords has produced a study looking at key figures around self-employed mortgages, highlighting the UK’s attitude towards them as well as offering tips from experts when applying for a self-employed mortgage.

27% of Self-employed Mortgage Loans Deemed Unaffordable in 2021

With COVID-19 hitting the housing market so strongly, it has only added to the pressure for banks to give out affordable mortgage loans.

Casey Bridge, mortgage advisor at Hall & Costello Wealth Management shares his experience:

“First of all, before COVID hit and there was no lockdown, it was very simple to obtain a mortgage as a self-employed person. Lenders would look at your last 2-years’ Tax calculations and Tax Year Overviews (TYO’s), and if the latest year was higher than the previous year they would either take an average of the last 2-years, or some lenders would go off the latest year which could produce a higher borrowing amount.

“If the latest year was lower than the previous, they would just use the lowest figure. If you are sole trader then it is net profits that lenders look at, but if you are a Director of a Limited Company, they look at salary and dividends.

“COVID-19 made it a lot harder for someone who is self-employed to obtain a mortgage.

“Lenders became extremely strict when self-employed people applied for a mortgage and decided to dig a bit deeper with these applicants to make sure that lending to them would not be risky.”

Research by Mortgage Broker Tools found that 71% of self-employed cases processed through its platform in January 2021 were affordable, with 27% deemed to be unaffordable based on the required loan amount.

It also found that the average maximum loan offered to self-employed mortgage applicants is £221,400 – a decrease of 3% from the last peak in August 2020. Whilst the minimum loan available to the self-employed recovered to £118,800, a 45% increase on its lowest point last April and a rise of 43% on November’s figures.

David Baird, mortgage and protections advisor at Aventur Wealth comments, “COVID-19 has had a huge impact on self-employed mortgages as we have seen increased discrepancy in the market.

“From one major lender (Santander) restricting all lending for S/E applicants to 60% (In January – now at 75%) to others carrying on as normal it has caused more confusion for the average buyer.”

“Personally I have not seen a decline in acceptance rates, instead it has caused an increase in time taken on my part in researching the right lender for the right applicant.”

80% of Self-employed Brits Have Been Rejected When Applying for a Mortgage

During a 2018 survey by TotallyMoney, self-employed workers expressed how they felt around the mortgage application process, why they were rejected and what they would suggest be improved.

Below are some key statistics from the survey:

  • 80% of self-employed Brits have been rejected when applying for a mortgage

  • 36.6% of applicants have faced at least one rejected

  • 32.8% were rejected because their credit rating wasn’t good enough

When asked how individuals going through the mortgage process felt, they found that:

  • 40% were stressed

  • 28.4% were frustrated

  • 26.4% felt hopeless

  • 76.8% of respondents felt discriminated against when making a mortgage applicant for being self-employed

  • 70% of respondents have felt reluctant to apply for a mortgage due to being self-employed

When asked how they can improve the mortgage application process:

  • 46% believed that self-certification mortgages should be reintroduced

  • 46.4% of self-employed respondents believe that removing the lenders requirements to have several years of certified accounts would significantly improve the application process

  • 39.2% felt that a simpler process with less documents is required

Construction Work Ranks As The Sector With The Most Self-employed

The coronavirus pandemic has had a big impact on the self-employed industry, with many having to either stop work or look to change their profession in order to get work. As our study shows, the UK has a high number of self-employed workers in a variety of sectors, with construction being the highest.

The sectors where the self-employed are:

Rank Sector No. of People Self-employed
1 Construction 920,000
2 Professional, scientific and technical activities 643,000
3 Wholesale, retail and repair of motor vehicles 396,000
4 Administrative and support services 361,000
5 Human health and social work 349,000
6 Transport and storage 324,000
7 Education 255,000
8 Manufacturing 246,000
9 Information and communication 240,000
10 Agriculture, mining, finishing, energy and water 218,000
11 Accommodation and food services 173,000
12 Real estate activities 86,000
13 Financial and insurance activities 86,000
14 Public admin and defence and social security 57,000

As of August 2020, there were more than 4.5 million self-employed people in the UK. This is broken up between 2.94 million males and 1.58 million females. Despite COVID-19 having a big impact on the self-employed, numbers have remained high, especially in the construction sector

The construction industry has the highest number of self-employed workers at 920,000. The professional, scientific and technical activities sector follows as the second highest industry with 643,000 self-employed workers and wholesale, retail and repair of motor vehicles ranks third with 396,000 workers.

The UK Ranks 20th As The Lowest Mortgage Interest Rate

One main talking point that would need addressing is the mortgage rates for the UK. For many, high interest rates cause the biggest setbacks when applying for a mortgage. The below table highlights the lowest to highest interest rates for mortgages for 20 countries around the world.

Rank Country Mortgage Interest Rate
1 Finland 1.41
2 Switzerland 1.45
3 Slovakia 1.51
4 France 1.54
5 Denmark 1.66
6 Belgium 1.76
7 Germany 1.85
8 Italy 1.90
9 Austria 2.06
10 Netherlands 2.14
11 Portugal 2.25
12 Spain 2.33
13 Lithuania 2.39
14 Estonia 2.52
15 Czech Republic 2.52
16 Latvia 2.67
17 Sweden 2.69
18 Norway 2.78
19 Slovenia 3.10
20 United Kingdom 3.15

Our study found that Finland has the lowest mortgage interest rate at just 1.41%. Switzerland falls second at 1.45%, with Slovakia ranking third with 1.51%.

In comparison, the UK has more than double the interest rate at 3.15% – a potential problem for self-employed consumers when affording monthly repayments.

Experts Share Insights Into Self-employed Mortgages During COVID-19

Kaan Emin, Mortgage and protection advisor and director at Apply Mortgages shares his tips and knowledge for those who are self-employed and trying to get a mortgage.

What are the difficulties self-employed people face when applying for mortgages?

“Most self-employed people of which have taken help from the Government during the pandemic are being disadvantaged by lenders, ltd company directors on furlough are finding it difficult, they have to return off of furlough and evidence 3 months of business bank statements to evidence the same level of income they earned prior the pandemic.”

What difficulties have you seen for self-employed people when applying for a mortgage during covid? What has been the overall impact?

“Overall the industries of which have been asked to stop trading are the individuals who have been impacted most, the industries that have remained trading are ok, however, some lenders have reduced the amount of borrowing not just for self-employed people but for all.

“Some lenders are asking for 25% deposit, some are asking for 20%, 15% or even accepting 10% deposits. Previously you used to be able to borrow up to 5 times your income but during the pandemic, this is now rare as lenders are usually giving 4.49 times salary of 4.75 times.

“Extra information is being requested from applicants, previously business bank statements never used to be asked for, now they are requesting to evidence 3 months’ statements to evidence level of income.”

What are your top tips for self-employed people when applying for mortgages?

  • Keep up with commitments/payments

  • Try cash and evidence as much earned income

  • Do not seek for grants/bounce-back loans etc if you do not need to

  • Keep up to date with your tax owed

David Baird also shares his knowledge;

  • Not all advisers are created equal! Speak to an independent, whole of market like myself as early as possible in the process. Make sure they understand S/E applicants and ask for details of others they have helped. This should help separate the experts from the amateurs.

  • Ask your accountant and your mortgage adviser to work together, this in my experience, helps make the process efficient and ultimately saves you the time to get on with running your business.

  • Start early, don’t wait to engage an adviser when you have found a property. By speaking to an adviser early on, I can work with your accountant to make sure we can get to work in presenting your application in the most positive way.

  • Keep up with credit – make sure all credit commitments, credit cards, loans etc. are up to date. Although there are specialist lenders who can help if you have fallen behind, the terms are going to be far more favourable when your credit rating is tip-top.

  • Cash is King – Simply put the more deposit you can put into the transaction the more favourable the terms. I appreciate this isn’t always feasible but by speaking to an adviser early on, I can illustrate the difference in what just 5% more deposit can make.

Do you see mortgage applications changing in the future for the self-employed? Should there be a different procedure to help those who are applying?

“Yes 100%, there has already been an increasing move from lenders pre-COVID-19 to take a more “common-sense” approach to S/E applicants and I can see this continuing going forward. An example of this is there were an increased number of lenders taking into account retained profit as well as directors remunerations to give a far more fair reflection of income for affordability.

“I think we will see more lenders specialise in the S/E market over the next few years who with a specialist underwriting team who can take a more accurate view of S/E income.

“The trend for more automation in terms of underwriting and assessment from lenders towards PAYE employed applications, means there should in theory be increased availability for human underwriters assessing S/E which can only be a positive.”

COVID-19 has had a big impact on both the housing market and mortgage application process, with many being turned away or asked to provide higher deposit sums. For the self-employed in particular, new rules and regulations are seemingly needed to help give the best chance when getting onto the property ladder.


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