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Jo Breeden looks at Development Finance for Property Investors

Monday 06 Nov 2017

The recent changes in the buy-to-let market has required many property investors to evaluate their current portfolio and future plans. For decades now we’ve witnessed the usual spiral between Government and property investors – the former reacts to a current issue or market problem while the latter keeps abreast of regulations while seeking the next ‘big thing’. Soon the former will catch-up again, by which time the latter will have moved on again.

The buy-to-let market has seen its greatest ever upheaval, with the three percent increase in stamp-duty charges on additional property purchases and the targeting of landlords with tax changes whereby relief will be gradually cut to 20 percent. Above this the new Prudential Regulatory Authority (PRA) guidance came into effect which aims to strengthen buy-to-let underwriting standards by insisting on a minimum level of stress testing to ensure loans remain affordable when rates rise, and as of October 1 this takes into account the entire property portfolio.

But do we think property investors are taking this lying down? Not a bit of it, to use a boxing analogy they are already prepared for the next round. Many ‘volumetric’ or ‘portfolio’ buy-to-let landlords have already started making enquiries or are transacting as Limited Companies, as this allows several tax breaks which may instigate an upfront cost but can reap far stronger mid to long term profits. At Crystal Specialist Finance enquiries for Limited Company buy-to-lets have increased by 26% in July to September 2017 compared to the same period last year, while applications for these loans have gone up by 50% over the same timescale.

But to me the story has a key second strand which will become far more prominent over the next 12 months - Development Finance. Over the same quarter three comparison period, we have witnessed enquiries rising by 36% and applications have more than doubled during that time. These applications range from the tens-of-thousands to the multi-million pound, multi property deals but of course the final endgame is nearly always the same – sell. Our own increase in Development Finance activity is being mirrored by lenders, with more-and-more products available from main high-street banks to challenger banks to specialist niche lenders, better rates and terms and a better mutual agreement on the time and stipulations to release the next payment.

Indeed, many of the applications we are now completing strike little resemblance from those five years ago. Life, and more pertinently property investors, always find a way!

Crystal Specialist Finance and Together complete six-day bridging loan for inheritance tax bill

Tuesday 25 Jul 2017

Crystal Specialist Finance (CSF) has completed a £600k bridging loan with Together in just six days, allowing the applicants to pay an inheritance tax bill to access a £5m property portfolio from their deceased father.

The customers, three sisters, had applied for a longer-term facility from their introducing broker, but due to the tight timescales, they needed to access funding fast to bridge the gap.

Their broker turned to CSF which approached short-term finance provider Together, knowing their track record of delivering against tight deadlines.

After reviewing the case the lender agreed to provide the funds needed, with the exit strategy being to refinance for the longer-term. The deal was secured against four flats on one title, valued at £1.8m, with both legal and valuations instructed straight away ensuring quick completion.

Jo Breeden, CSF Managing Director, said: “This is a fantastic example of how bridging finance is adapting to meet varied market demands, and how the right distributor and lender can move extremely quickly to meet the best interests of the applicant in terms of loan size, term and exit strategy.”

Marc Goldberg, commercial CEO at Together added: “Bridging finance can serve a wide variety of purposes and in this case, ensured the customers’ inheritance whilst the longer-term facility is put in place. Crystal Specialist Finance know they can trust us to deliver in situations like this, where time is of the essence, and worked closely with our team at Together to provide the best outcome for the customer.”

Jo Breeden talks to FTAdviser about uptaking development market

Tuesday 11 Jul 2017

Crystal Specialist Finance (CSF) has seen a ‘massive increase’ in demand for development finance as property investors go in search of higher yields.

CSF announced plans to tap into the growing property development finance sector - covering new build projects, redevelopments, major renovation works and general refurbishments - in April this year.

The sector has seen rapid growth in recent years, with lenders increasing annual development lending by more than 140 per cent between 2012 and 2014, according to a review of the sector by the Investment Property Forum.

CSF managing director Jo Breeden told FTAdviser the move had paid off, as the cooling buy-to-let market has served to push investors into more niche areas of the market.

“It is definitely a great decision we have made, and over the next 12 months we will be making sure the department is ahead of the game,” he said.

“We have already made one key appointment and will have another two starters by the end of the month [June] just to keep up with demand. We have seen a massive increase.

“It is definitely the way the market has moved and will continue to move while there is a shortage of housing and a restriction of traditional investment.”

Mr Breeden warned brokers could be missing out on business by failing to engage with the burgeoning sector.

“Development finance and refurb - people should not be discarding these, and we can help with their knowledge base and an education piece,” he said. “Brokers have to look at diversifying and looking at opportunities.”

While many indicators point to a housing market languishing in the doldrums, changes to mainstream lending have led to growth in more niche sectors.

So far this year, the company has recruited eight new joiners to meet the increased demand for new business.

CSF has also benefited from an increase in limited company applications following tougher regulations on the buy-to-let market, as the company has been dealing with such applications for decades.

Crystal Specialist Finance added to Shawbrook's Strategic Broker Panel

Wednesday 14 Jun 2017

Shawbrook’s Commercial Mortgages team has introduced Crystal Specialist Finance as its latest Strategic Broker Partner.

Jo Breeden, Managing Director of Crystal Specialist Finance, commented: “Shawbrook are one of the lenders we always look towards when placing our clients’ business, having worked with them since the Bank’s inception in 2011. They take a common sense approach and apply it via employees who are both experienced and personable, something often missing from the modern lending landscape. This is important to us and it’s the correct vision of how business should be done, and one which very much mirrors our own philosophy with a focus on relationships and market-leading service.

“Shawbrook offers a really good product range covering commercial BTL and bridging, two key areas for us. With the closer working partnership made possible by gaining Strategic Partner status, I’m certain that everything is in place for us to push on as we close in on the second half of the year.”

Gavin Seaholme, Senior Development Manager for Shawbrook Commercial, added: “It’s been a pleasure to work with Jo and the team at Crystal Specialist Finance and, on a personal note, I’m thrilled to see that their strong business levels have resulted in them receiving Strategic Partner status.

“Shawbrook and Crystal have much in common when it comes to how we operate. A commitment to the customer’s best interests is of course paramount – along with an ability to think outside of the box and be pragmatic – which has enabled many of Crystal’s clients to benefit from Shawbrook’s award-winning products. On behalf of my colleagues, we’d like to thank the Crystal team for their business and we look forward to further building our professional relationship in 2017 and beyond.”

As a Strategic Partner, we have access to a variety of exclusive perks and products that you wouldn’t get via a standard packager or by approaching Shawbrook directly. Speak to one of the team today on 01827 338 803 to see how we can help you to help your clients.

Crystal Specialist Finance targets main building growth sector with new development finance director

Tuesday 11 Apr 2017

Crystal Specialist Finance (CSF) has appointed Michael Fisher as Development Finance Director as the company aims to make greater inroads into the growing property development finance sector.

Driven by Parliament’s demand for new housing, Michael will be tasked with educating brokers on the advantages of development finance and highlight the opportunities available nationwide.

He will also work with lenders to increase the company’s portfolio of lenders, currently standing at 30, to ensure maximum flexibility for all clients.

Michael said: “Many people and businesses in the property sector are looking to enter the development finance market due to the reduction in profitability for buy-to-let landlords, a fact verified by a recent United Trust Bank survey which revealed that 69% of development finance brokers anticipate greater demand in the year ahead*.

“Investors are looking for better yields and property development provides an attractive opportunity. Backed by Parliament’s challenge and initiatives to the private sector to increase building to meet housing demand small and medium sized developers, both first-time and experienced, can see the huge potential.”

CSF was recently named Best Development Broker of the Year at the prestigious Bridging & Commercial Awards 2016.

Jo Breeden, CSF Managing Director, said: “Development finance has always been core to our business, and our own figures show a big upsurge in enquiries and applications since the turn of the year. With Michael in place we are in the best possible position to further grow our market share in this rapidly evolving segment.”

The standard approach to the specialist

Friday 24 Mar 2017

For a standard residential deal, a mortgage broker is comfortable and has a process – fact find, mortgage, protection. What happens when it comes to a specialist finance case?

It should be the same.

Many brokers see a commercial or bridging finance transaction and are unsure of the process as it’s outside of their comfort zone. Our message is that it shouldn’t be any different: understand what the client is looking to do, source the finance and arrange suitable protection.


Sourcing systems have simplified the residential mortgage sourcing process. Experience and knowledge is of course invaluable, but sourcing a residential mortgage is relatively straightforward.

In the specialist finance world, the products are much more bespoke and the sourcing is not as straightforward, however this is where the skills of a good specialist distributor – such as Crystal Specialist Finance – can fill that gap.


On a residential mortgage it’s almost second nature for the advisor to explore buildings and contents insurance, life insurance and income protection. Why should this be any different on a specialist finance case?

All properties require buildings insurance, so is therefore a must for any discussion. If the business is run by a sole trader then life and CIC are also essential to explore, and if the loan is for a company then there is a wealth of business protection products available, including Key Man, business life and relevant life.

Imagine if your client came back to you when you hadn’t discussed protection and they needed it?


A good solicitor experienced in specialist finance can make or break a transaction. Specialist finance needs a specialist approach as it normally is more complicated than standard conveyancing. Ensure that the solicitor the client instructs is adept at this type of transaction.


The best relationships are based on achieving the outcome the client wants, with a smooth and straightforward journey. By ensuring you have explored all of these avenues with your client means you have done the very best you can do for your clients and means you can relax knowing you have used your professional skills to complete a job well done.

Crystal Specialist Finance can work with you on all of the above – finance, protection, insurance and solicitors – to ensure the deal proceeds smoothly, completes and to achieve the outcome your client wants. Speak to our specialists today on 01827 301 070 to see how we can work together and get more business completed.

Crystal Specialist Finance excels at industry's leading awards night

Tuesday 21 Mar 2017

Crystal Specialist Finance (CSF) has excelled at the professional finance industry’s leading annual awards night, collecting two honours at the Business Moneyfacts Awards 2017.

The Tamworth-based company was named Winner of the highly-competitive Bridging Finance Introducer of the Year category, and was Highly Commended in the Commercial Finance Specialist Distributor of the Year classification.

The awards are presented to companies and brokers who have consistently offered the most competitive products, the best levels of service and shown the greatest innovation in the business and commercial finance world over the last 12 months.

Hosted by stand-up comedian Romesh Ranganathan at the prestigious Lancaster London Hotel, over 600 industry professionals from leading financial institutions and trade bodies attended the event.

Jo Breeden, CSF Managing Director, said: “Given the longstanding nature of the event, the calibre of the judges and the competition, the people in the room and the kudos that accompanies the Business Moneyfacts Awards, this has to go down as one of our greatest nights in our company history.

“Bridging finance is one of the fastest growing financial sectors of the market, so to be recognised as one of its leading exponents can only bring greater recognition of our expertise and more business through the door. The task now is to stay ahead of the competition and aim even higher in 2018.”

CSF smashed all company records in 2016, with issued terms up 81%, completed business by 35% and enquiries by 54% against 2015. The company issued annual terms totalling £1,946m against £1,074m in the corresponding period.

Jo Breeden, Managing Director at Crystal Specialist Finance Featured on 2017 Review Panel

Tuesday 14 Feb 2017

Our very own Managing Director Jo Breeden has been interviewed by mortgage and finance experts Online Mortgage Advisor in their analysis of the year ahead, quoted as the specialist finance expert for all things bridging and commercial.

Online Mortgage Advisor have pulled together peers, experts and market leaders from a wide range of industries to discuss and comment on how the future lies for the housing and finance market, covering hot topics such as Brexit, the buy-to-let tax and regulatory reforms, house prices, lending policy and even the future role of Robo-Advice.

Click here to view the article What does 2017 look like in full and read Jo's comments!

Crystal Specialist Finance nears two billion issued terms in record 2016

Thursday 02 Feb 2017

Crystal Specialist Finance (CSF) has smashed all company records in 2016, with issued terms up 81%, completed business by 35% and enquiries by 54% against 2015.

From October to December, the business had its most successful quarter ever with issued terms reaching £532.2m, giving an annual total of £1,946m against £1,074m in the corresponding period.

In addition the average completed application value rose by 21% plus the business issued terms with 70 lenders and completed deals with 42, including both high street and challenger banks.

Case highlights include securing a £3.6m bridging loan with Together in just ten working days, a £590k regulated loan with Borro in three days and ‘the perfect bridge’ with LendInvest to ensure continued work on an investment property which was on the verge of stalling.

Jo Breeden, Managing Director of CSF said: “In 2015 I challenged the team to hit £1bn in terms issued, which they duly did, so to end 2016 just short of £2bn is nothing short of exceptional. To compound this achievement with huge increases in completions and the average application value paints a very positive picture.

“When you consider the uncertainty surrounding the finance market in 2016 with the well publicised regulation changes and the EU Referendum result, we have not only defied the odds but done so with the correct levels of personal and IT infrastructure investment to ensure solid foundations moving forward.

“I have no doubt that 2017 will continue to be challenging, but we enter the year having established ourselves as one of the biggest specialist distributors in the UK and we will continue to expand our boundaries based on the excellent service for which we are becoming synonymous.”

SimplyBiz Mortgages appoints Crystal Specialist Finance to new ancillary panel

Monday 23 Jan 2017

Tamworth-based Crystal Specialist Finance (CSF) has been appointed to the new ancillary panel of one of the UK’s largest mortgage clubs, SimplyBiz Mortgages.

Following a comprehensive three-month research and tender process, CSF will advise members on applications across its five specialist core divisions: Bridging, Commercial, Development Funding, Second Charge Loans and Specialist Mortgages.

Having grown year-on-year since its inception in 2004, SimplyBiz Mortgages supports over 3,400 mortgage intermediaries across the UK, giving easy access to compliance and technical support as well as a wide variety of products all designed to further develop their business potential.

The review was undertaken following the large number of legislative changes in the financial industry last year, including the Mortgage Credit Directive (MCD) and Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT), to ensure the best levels of advice and compliance from partners for its members.

Martin Reynolds, CEO of SimplyBiz Mortgages, commented: “Following a three-month due diligence process we have created a new panel that will offer members both choice and access to a wealth of knowledge, and Crystal Specialist Finance has proved it can deliver on all fronts.

“Commercial mortgages, and the specialist finance market as a whole, are becoming more complex and using all the resources available to you as an adviser is essential. CSF will be an excellent addition to our ancillary panel and will readily assist our members in securing more business.”

Jo Breeden, Managing Director of CSF, added: “SimplyBiz Mortgages easily stands as one of the leading mortgage clubs in the UK, with their commitment to service and compliance always driving the business direction.

“To be selected after a very thorough tender process shows that CSF is operating on a comparable level, and we will also continually drive to improve so the service we deliver, both on the phone and online, is second-to-none.”