The self-employed are increasingly pessimistic about their chances of buying a property, as the pandemic has exacerbated difficulties felt by this group in trying to get a foot on the housing ladder, new research shows.
The challenges self-employed renters are facing in acquiring their first home has become more pressing due to the pandemic, according to the study by the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) and specialist mortgage provider CMME.
Some 71% of the 624 UK freelancers surveyed said that they are worried about saving for later life or buying a home following Covid-19, with women most likely to be affected.
The survey found that despite the record increase in first-time buyers post lockdown, just 12% of respondents are planning to purchase a property in the next five years.
The research also found that freelancers are skeptical about how they will be handled by mortgage lenders. While almost one in five – 19% – believe that they will be treated fairly by lenders, 50% fear that they will not. Moreover, 38% of the freelancers that have obtained a mortgage in 2021 found the process of getting one either somewhat or very difficult. For context, this represents a 57% increase since 2020.
While government schemes like the Self-Employment Income Scheme (SEISS) provided some freelancers with a lifeline during lockdown, there are signs that accessing the support could have a serious negative long-term impact on the financial wellbeing of the self-employed sector.
According to the research, 40% people who accessed SEISS during Covid-19 fear that they could be penalized in a mortgage application.
Andy Chamberlain, director of policy at IPSE, said: “Today findings are a wake-up call for lenders and the government. While the focus in recent months has been on economic challenges like supply chains and rising inflation, more attention needs to be given to self-employed workers, who have taken the brunt of the pandemic.
“The government needs to work alongside the financial sector to alleviate the barriers preventing more freelancers from accessing financial products. Around 1 in 7 working people in the UK are self-employed. Not only do we have a responsibility to ensure they have the same ability to save and buy a home as everyone else, lenders should recognise the self-employed make up a huge and potentially lucrative market.”
Mike Coshott, CEO at CMME, added: “As we come out of the pandemic, it is clear that self-employed workers need more financial support. The past year and a half has derailed freelance work, with many self-employed people seeking help from SEISS and other financial schemes. While many have been able to generate regular work and income post lockdown, today finding’s around savings show that freelancers still bear financial scars from the pandemic.”