Succeeding during and after lockdown

Senior Mortgage Manager Jo Philips discusses her experiences during the recent lockdown and how she has seen one of her most successful periods over the last 2 months.

Question: During the lockdown in Dubai over March and April, how did you keep yourself motivated and what actions did you take to try and keep as productive as possible?

Answer: In the early stages of the lockdown, I was of the mindset that I needed to work harder than ever to remain successful and therefore decided to keep my routine the same as to my normal working hours and beyond. This meant being ready to work by 8.30 am every day and staying busy throughout the day and remaining flexible to accommodate meetings up to 10 pm. As the lockdown progressed, I was spending a large amount of time speaking to people using either zoom or simply over the phone. Many of my competitors were not active over this period and I secured many clients on the back of being active and responding to inquiries quickly and efficiently. Even though many people were only at the inquiry stage, I was able to build a really good rapport during the early parts of our discussions.

Question: What are the major challenges you have faced and how have you sought to overcome these?

Answer: During this period of lockdown, clearly many have faced and are facing challenges. With my role as a Senior Mortgage Manager, the major challenges have been the turn-around times experienced with banks and lenders. Banking staff were working remotely or on rotation as per government guidelines and were facing system access challenges at a time where the banks were also assessing the risks with many industries facing job cuts and salary reductions. Our banking partners have been rapidly changing their product and lending policies which has led to some challenges in keeping up with the information. It was important for me to remain transparent in order to manage client expectations and to my surprise, my clients and introducers were very understanding even when under pressure to meet deadlines.

As an individual and Home Matters as a company, we have always adopted a transparent approach where we give realistic expectations to our clients even if that is sometimes something they don’t want to hear.
Another challenging aspect is the impact the pandemic has had on many of my clients I have worked with over the years. I often form a close bond with many of my clients when going through the mortgage process and to find out about the tough times some are going through is very sad. Although we cannot necessarily make a huge difference, I have spent a great deal of time giving practical advice to help them manage their mortgage situation as best as possible. It has been of great importance to me to be able to help, where I can, for anyone that has found themselves in a difficult position.

Question: What was your experience when returning to the office and what were your key priorities?

Having returned back in the office and restrictions becoming less rigid, I knew that many of the clients I had spoken to when in lockdown were ready to progress their property search. I made it my priority to keep the communication open and help where possible. Due to the very unusual circumstances we were forced into, I felt like I had made a real connection with my clients and as soon as they were ready, many clients made contact to arrange the mortgage.

Mortgages can be a scary prospect for clients at the best of times and with the uncertainty in the market, I made it my priority to keep clients updated and inform them of any changes.

Although returning to an office environment was strange initially, I soon felt normality returning albeit with the addition of masks, social distancing, and plenty of hand sanitizer!! After a week or so everyone started to feel more comfortable and it really helped to have that office interaction again after the weeks of isolation during the 24-hour lockdown.

Question: How has the business been since and what are your predictions for the market?

Answer: Based on the number of enquiries and discussions I had during the lockdown, I was confident that business would pick up straight away. It has been a little surprising how quickly that had happened and specifically the volume of clients I have been working with in the secondary market. Prices were already attractive pre lockdown and with some additional reductions, it would appear that anyone who had a mind to buy have really committed to proceeding with their purchase. What really pleased me was the number of people who I had been in discussion during the lockdown who have moved ahead.

Making predictions on the market is very tough. There are clearly still many challenges left for the UAE which will take some time to overcome. However, given the demand that has remained strong in the property market and the dynamic nature of the economy, I believe there is a silver lining for the UAE property market and economy as a whole.

Question: What have you learned during this period and what would your advice be to anyone who is planning a purchase and requires a mortgage?

Answer: Key learning for me is to really take the time with my prospective clients to not just understand their lending profile but to understand how I can help them through this process. I have always felt myself to be a people’s person and a good connector and whilst working from home, it really renewed my energy to deepen my relationships and really make sure I become their trusted advisor. May and June were some of the most productive months I have had in my whole time as a mortgage advisor in the UAE. I really believe that having spent more quality time with my prospects and clients has had a major impact on this.

Two pieces of advice I would give; make sure you plan early and get good quality independent advice.

The disruption in the market has meant there is a smaller number of banks with the most attractive products. This can lead to delays in the processes and also means that in some cases there is less flexibility if there are any changes in the client’s financials. The earlier you can get started, the better. This will help avoid disappointments in securing your dream home or investment.

Getting independent advice is more important than ever. Many banks have made changes to their lending policies. If you only speak to your own bank you may find that even if they were happy to lend 2-3 months ago, they may have now changed their position on how much and to who they will lend to. Often times they will still try and process your application and many weeks can be spent failing to get the desired result.

Good mortgage advisors will not just try to place you with the current headline mortgage but also make sure it is suitable for you and is with a bank that is able to offer you a mortgage in a given time frame. Getting transparent information and realistic advice on the market is key to starting the journey to your new home positively. Stick to these things and you will have a great experience and be in your dream home in no time…