Meet the Underwriter: Debbie Tant

Have you ever wondered what it's like to be an Underwriter?

Debbie Tant

Debbie Tant is Mortgage Underwriting Manager at OneFamily Lifetime Mortgages

How long have you been an underwriter? And how long have you worked at OneFamily?

I have worked for OneFamily for 3 years and have over 20 years’ experience of managing the mortgage underwriting process within a lending environment.

My experience includes 10 years with the Lloyds Banking Group, 10 years at the Nationwide Building Society and 2 years with Magellan Home Loans.

Please describe a typical day in the life of an underwriter?

A large part of my role is to regularly review our lending criteria to improve our business proposition in line with the market and our lending criteria, ensuring that our lending criteria and underwriting approach can offer flexibility to customers and to ensure that we are aware of any escalating market risk.

The focus of the underwriting team is on sound decision making and service, providing a seamless lending process to our Advisers. One of our key USPs is that we are easy to do business with, we provide direct access to our underwriters via email and phone. This means that our Advisers have access to experienced decision makers via a dedicated phone line where they can receive direct expert advice from the mortgage underwriting team.  The OneFamily portal is automated and provides the Adviser with a decision in principle on the basis of accept, decline or refer. Any decision in principle that refers, allows the underwriter to look at areas that require further investigation prior to valuation i.e. non-standard construction.

Approximately how long does the underwriting process take for each case?

The life of a case can start with a telephone query or email from an Adviser, and from this first contact we will review the property and any other information we have been made aware of to enable OneFamily to make an initial decision as to whether or not the overall scenario fits into our lending appetite.

In the initial stages we could be checking a number of factors, for instance; is the property in close proximity to any super infrastructure projects i.e. HS2, does the construction type fit our criteria, is the property in a flood risk area, and many other risk related elements.

The complexity and requirements for one case can be very different from another. A case with no complexities should proceed to offer subject to valuation within 10 days. Where there are complexities this can be longer but we will keep the Adviser up to date.

What are the typical issues you encounter when dealing with a case?

The most common issue is incorrect or incomplete information, for example, information missing from areas on our automated portal relating to the application form which may include:

  • additional occupants not being declared and coming to light when we undertake searches.
  • down valuations.
  • further information required on the build of the property.

Delays can also occur during the conveyancing process such as waiting for further information to satisfy lending criteria and risk appetite in respect of e.g.

  • Property title anomalies.
  • evidence to satisfy flooding conditions.
  • age verification evidence, for example, if they are elderly and do not have a passport or driving licence.
  • Land Registry searches that may reveal a Section 157 (restrictive convenant) an example of this may be that the property can only be sold to local people
  • the applicants are not the registered owner of the property yet (usually they are beneficiaries of a will).

"..OneFamily go that extra mile.."

What’s the most unusual case you’ve come across? And how did you overcome the obstacles of this case in order to provide the right solution for the customer?

I have been involved in many unusual cases and will give a couple of examples but I think it is important to note that OneFamily go that extra mile before we decline a case and that whilst our lending criteria is not completely unique, we are flexible in our approach and will take time over cases with, sometimes, multiple complexities to reach a fair conclusion.

We recently had a case where on receipt of the valuation it was discovered that the applicant had actually purchased two maisonettes and had the title changed back to a freehold as the property was being converted back to a single dwelling property. Upon further investigation it was revealed that the case had been declined by another lender but OneFamily looked at how we could help the customer and agreed a full retention on the condition that the property had a staircase fitted and that the utilities were transferred to single dwelling use so that the property could be accessed as a single dwelling. A valuation reinspection confirmed that the property was fully converted to a single dwelling and was mortgageable and saleable.

Another property considered recently was an historic build house with a timber frame and an element of flying freehold.  It was also adjacent to a public house. Our approach is customised, in that, it takes into account the area, the type of property and the ongoing saleability. The property was situated in a quiet country village and the house had a timber frame dated pre 1900 that had stood the test of time. The Valuer confirmed that the structure of the house was an historic timber-framed property in an area of high marketability, the flying freehold was below our 15% maximum and the proximity of the pub didn’t have a negative impact upon the security of the property. We were happy to consider this property, as opposed to taking a blanket approach to each factor

OneFamily’s lending criteria and underwriting approach can offer flexibility to customers.

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