With lockdown protocols still in place, and not looking like they will ease up soon, banks and property companies are relying heavily on technology to help ease the burden during these difficult times.
Challenger banks such as Starling, Nubank, and Atom, are leading the way with innovative tech and support during the pandemic. Like most banks, they have announced mortgage holidays and interest-free overdrafts alongside the support of business loans.
However, Starling has gone one step further by unveiling 'connected cards'. This is a card that is connected to an individual's personal bank account but can also be used by friends, family, or community volunteers to shop for them during self-isolation. Starling is also the first digital-only bank to allow cheque processing via mobile.
Some banks are reducing their customer service hours despite high demand, however Atom bank has increased theirs. Their helplines are open 8 am - 8 pm, seven days a week to assist customers where necessary on top of offering mortgage payment breaks of up to three months.
Support during Pandemic
Koodoo, the UK-based mortgage technology provider, has collaborated with other major lenders to create a tool that gives consumers guidance on mortgage holidays. It gives access to FAQs relating to taking mortgage holidays, as well as the ability to apply directly to lenders through the website.
Not only does the website give consumers the information needed to navigate mortgage holidays during this difficult time, but it also helps to alleviate the high call volumes which are simple customer queries.
Alongside this, Fronted and Credit Kudos have created COVID-Credit for the self-employed who are still at a disadvantage compared to the employed. Although they can now claim 80% of their earnings, COVID-Credit helps by using open banking data so that the self-employed can prove that their work has been impacted due to COVID-19.
During the daily briefing on the 13th of May, it was announced that estate agents will be allowed to reopen. That means viewings, either virtual or in-person if the house isn't occupied, can recommence as well as moving property.
This is likely to be great news for those who are looking to buy or rent, especially as The Property Ombudsman (TPO) recently warned against virtual viewings. These viewings were put in place during the lockdown as a way for sellers or landlords to continue their work. It states in the TPO's code of practice that it is not advisable for anyone to accept an offer for a property that has not been viewed in person or by a suitable representative.
In order to support local communities and ensure everyone stays safe, Kamma and others have created Coronafriend.com, where you can connect your street and offer support to the more vulnerable. You just register your street, print out the leaflets, and post them through doors. It's a great online tool to help others, whilst staying safe yourself.
If you are among those struggling to complete tasks whilst managing a property, Keystone Property Reports (KPR) has developed a free app that allows inspections to still take place virtually. The CEO of KPR - Darren Clapp - created the app to allow tenants to complete the self-assessment of the midterm report without breaking COVID-19 rules.
The tech successfully reduces a landlord's need to go into a property, whilst ensuring they are able to provide a safe space for tenants. Best of all, it's completely free during the lockdown.
Little by little, we're being given details on how and when lockdown will begin to ease. It will be interesting to see how the property market will fair upon the easing of restrictions.
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Normette Homes specialise in property investment and tenant sourcing.