In those long-gone antediluvian years before electronic calculators, personal computers, Subway sandwiches, alcopops , female managers and the morning-after pill, there were dusty institutions with mahogany desks, huge ledgers, pound notes and dour-looking men in shiny suits with fountain pens in the breast pocket.
Those venerable institutions were called Building Societies.
They took money from their saving members and lent it to their borrowing members who wished to purchase a home. That’s what they did – and they did it all with real money. Leveraging (borrowing), Gearing (borrowing) and Bonds (borrowing) had not been invented – and if they had, it wasn’t the sort of thing that they needed (or wanted) to know about. Life was simple plus there was the bonus of a typing pool full of straight-backed sexy young typists whose drumbeat was set by the old crone at the front!
Here’s how money was lent and how they managed to lend MORE than the 70% maximum that Banks are currently lending. In those days, banks weren’t even allowed to lend for house purchase (just washing machines and refrigerators).
The mortgage underwriter (in those days, they he was called the mortgage “assistant” ) would decide on whether the “basic” maximum loan that the Building Society was willing to lend was 70% or 75%. Simple! (In very extreme cases – for instance, for properties which were only standing because the woodworm were holding hands – the maximum could be as low as 65% of the valuation).
However, there were MANY occasions when a borrowing member would be granted a mortgage of 90 or even 95%.
“How did they manage that?” I hear you ask.
Let us say that the borrower wanted to buy a nice big five-bedroomed house for £10,000 but could only find a 10% deposit. That meant that the Building Society needed to lend him £9000 (90% of the valuation).
The valuer would recommend a basic loan of say 75% which was £7,500. If the Building Society wanted to lend the borrower the full £9000, it would lend – but only after arranging a form of insurance for the difference – in this example £1,500. In this way, the risky top-part of the mortgage was insured by the Building Society.
So, if the mortgage went wrong, the insurance company would stump up any shortfall if the Building Society needed to dispose of the property in a forced sale.
It used to be called the Insurance Guarantee or I.G.
Why all this rheumy-eyed nostalgia?
David Cameron has just announced a new scheme in which banks will be able to lend more than they are comfortable with – and presumably, borrowers will be able to borrow more than they are comfortable with.
The risky top-part of the mortgage will be insured but, in keeping with modern ways, it will be the taxpayer (who else)? and not an Insurance Guarantee company who will accept the risk.
( I wonder who is advising Cameron these days? I bet he has a couple of fountain pens in the breast pocket)