Gavin Diamond, commercial director – bridging, United Trust Bank, explains its approach to refurbishment lending

When you ask brokers what they really want to see from lenders the top selections usually come out something like this:

  • Products to suit niche markets
  • Better service
  • Lower rates
  • More consistent lending decisions

Established lenders like UTB constantly look to evolve to meet the changing needs of customers and brokers and we have therefore earned a strong reputation as a dependable, knowledgeable and competitive bridging lender as we do not rest on our laurels.


We started over a year ago when we launched our property improvement loans. This ‘niche’ product, designed for property professionals undertaking significant refurbishment projects, really hit the spot.

Its flexibility and competitive pricing made it one of our most popular products of the last 18 months and has created a loyal fan base.

Next, we looked at our pricing and reduced our interest rates in every LTV band, becoming one of the cheapest bridging providers in the marketplace for both first and second charge lending. Then we reviewed our distribution strategy and recruited new regional BDMs to offer real ‘boots on the ground’ service and support to brokers in areas across England and Wales.

In anticipation of business levels increasing, driven by the extra BDMs, we developed our internal sales team to ensure that service levels and efficiency were maintained, and we recruited an underwriting manager with a responsibility to ensure that proposals were dealt with quickly and professionally.

The bridging team amended and streamlined its internal processes, particularly in relation to sign off authority, to further improve turnaround times from enquiry to drawdown. We streamlined the solicitor panel to ensure excellent service and reduced fees for borrowers and broadened the valuer panel to provide relevant national coverage and improved response times.

Most recently we reduced our minimum loan size to £75,000, following discussions with brokers operating in regional markets, and we introduced AVMs for qualifying loans to reduce both costs and processing times.

The combined effect of all these changes and improvements has been a 30% boost in our new completions.

The moral of this story is that whilst new lenders often announce their arrival with promises of ‘new this and better that’, there are well established, knowledgeable and dependable lenders with a proven track record which are already leading the pack in service improvements and product innovation.

Refurbishment facility gives borrower options

United Trust Bank’s bridging team was approached to assist a borrower wishing to purchase a three-bedroomed detached house in North West London. The intention, following the acquisition, was to seek planning permission to convert the house into two apartments.

The borrower was an experienced property professional, owning several other investment properties in addition to his home. Although the borrower did not have previous experience of similar projects, he had already received positive feedback on his intended scheme from architects and the local authority and precedent already existed on other properties in the same street.

The cost of the conversion works for the intended scheme were estimated to be in the region of £135,000 with a completed GDV of £0.9m. The apartments were to be sold once finished to provide the exit.

Having appraised the proposal, UTB agreed to provide a facility of £318,000 towards the purchase of the property and to fund the full cost of works of £135,000 for the intended scheme. The borrowers requested to receive the works costs in three tranches of £45,000, following inspections by the bank’s asset manager. The term of the loan was set at 18 months; nine months to obtain the necessary planning permission and to complete the works and a further nine months to market and sell the apartments to repay the loan.

In the event that the planning application proved to be unsuccessful, the borrower had a plan B. He would instead carry out a refurbishment of the house as a single dwelling at an estimated cost of £85,000 with a GDV of £740,000. The works would still be fully funded by UTB and the house sold to repay the loan.

The loan completed soon after application and the scheme is now awaiting planning permission.

Loan  facility:  £512,000 LTV: 49% Day 1; 57% of GDV