Estate agent Sherry FitzGerald is planning to launch a beefed-up mortgage broker platform in 2020 with a view to trebling its revenues within three years from providing this service to home buyers.
“We’re working with a third party at the moment, which will give us access to the entire mortgage market. At the moment, we’re very reliant on referrals,” said Steven McKenna, Sherry FitzGerald’s chief executive.
Mr McKenna said the company had seen an “uptick” of 25 per cent on mortgages coming through MySherryFitz portal on its website and was now looking at launching a service called mysherryfitzmortgages.ie.
“What we need is a more efficient platform to make it seamless. It would effectively allow someone to put in an application online using AI [artificial intelligence], it would take a photograph of their passport and utility bills and pre-populate the application for them, which at the moment takes four weeks manually.”
Sherry Fitz currently generates about €3 million a year in income from its mortgage broker service, but Mr McKenna wants to increase this figure to “in excess of €10 million” within three years.
“It’s a game-changer for us because we don’t have the capacity to deal with the volumes manually. About 80 per cent of the process will be done through AI.”
Once an application has been filed, Sherry Fitz provides borrowers with options from the various mortgage lenders. Mr McKenna said the estate agent is dealing with all the lenders in the Irish market.
The Irish mortgage market is expected to hit €9.5 billion in value this year
Mr McKenna said Sherry Fitz is on track to facilitate 500 mortgages this year. “The drawdowns last year were €125 million and this year will be €150 million,” he said, adding that this would give them about 8 per cent of the broker market.
“There’s a huge opportunity for us in this sector. The banks don’t have the capacity to deal with all those mortgage applications so they want to tap into the broker market. By bringing in technology we’ll have the capacity to support it and really target the growth.”
The Irish mortgage market is expected to hit €9.5 billion in value this year, with Mr McKenna predicting it will grow to between €12 billion and €15 billion in the coming years.
Brokers currently comprise about 23 per cent of the Irish residential mortgage market, with Mr McKenna expecting this to rise to 35 per cent.
Sherry Fitz is also is looking at re-entering the UK market and has an eye on acquisitions in Ireland to further bolster its position as the largest player in this market.
Latest accounts for Sherry Fitz show that the company’s turnover increased to €28.3 million last year from just under €27 million in 2017.
Including franchisees, Sherry FitzGerald Group sold 8,300 units last year with a combined capital value of €3 billion. This included 1,800 new homes, and gave it a 15.5 per cent share of the Irish residential market last year.