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Insights

Five minutes with…Mick Howard, Development Finance Relationship Director

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Mick Howard has been with Paragon’s Development Finance team since 2017, focusing on the north of England. We ask him about what he’s hearing from SME housebuilders in the north of the country and how the pandemic has impacted the type of scheme he’s seeing.

Can you tell us briefly about your background and why you joined Paragon?

I’ve worked in Banking and finance my entire career and have specialised in the property sector for most of the last 17 years. I joined Paragon as I was attracted to both the brand and the Group’s wider reputation. It was an exciting time to see the Development Finance arm still in its infancy with fantastic scope to grow, change and expand.

How would you describe the market currently in the north? Which regions are particularly strong?

The last 12 months have seen the property market in the north remain robust and perform above expectations with consistent growth seen in both cities and popular surrounding towns. Most regions and, in particular, North Yorkshire, have seen strong demand and house price growth.

I am interested in the Government’s ‘Levelling Up’ agenda and how that plays out across the north. I’m sure more investment in the region will bring more jobs of a better quality, which in turn creates demand for new housing. You have also seen the Government state it will move certain departments to northern areas, including the North East and Yorkshire, so again, that will boost the property market.

What trends are you seeing in the types of scheme coming across your desk?

The pandemic and particularly the “new normal” of people working from home has undoubtedly driven and highlighted the desire for good-sized, flexible property, ideally with a decent level of outside space. The recent trend of deals has, as a result, been for houses which satisfy these requirements with fewer larger apartment / city centre schemes being presented for funding. However, people are always attracted to the city lifestyle, so I expect to see a balance going forward.

What are some of the key things you expect to see for the housing sector during the second half of 2021?

Despite the challenges to the economy as we emerge from the pandemic, I expect good quality housing schemes to continue to sell well. Continued Government support of the housing market such as Help to Buy and Stamp Duty reductions, together with the upcoming impact on unemployment with the end to the furlough scheme, will no doubt be key drivers. I’m encouraged though that the mortgage products available continue to expand and, with interest rates remaining historically low, I believe the market will still see a steady level of demand.

How do you feel regional weightings will impact demand for the Help to Buy scheme in northern regions?

House prices across various northern areas have continued to rise over the last 12 months. Help to Buy and the regional weighting does currently mean that a good level of stock is still affordable to buyers and will remain a vital tool in supporting, in particular, the first-time buyer market.