Lenders can be persuaded

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At the end of last year the Council of Mortgage Lenders anticipated the end of the 25-year loan and the emergence of flexible mortgages more suited to today's uncertain working patterns. Hurrah, thought the growing band of the self-employed; until they read the small print, which excluded them.

If you work for yourself, getting a mortgage can be extremely difficult. Even if your income is stable, a set of accounts designed for the income tax man is not best suited to impressing the building society manager. If your income fluctuates from year to year it is even harder to convince him that you represent an acceptable long-term risk. The increasing centralisation of banks and building societies has exacerabated the problem, with many managers having to refer cases to a "higher" author ity. It isalmost impossible to persuade someone to lend you money if you are unable to talk to them directly.

One way through the problem is to employ a man who can. Hector McLean is an independent company that specialises in finding mortgages for people with awkward employment patterns. The brokers gather as much information as possible about your working life,your past and potential future earnings, and persuade the lender to take a long-term view. As a result of specialising in this kind of work the company has built up a relationship with those institutions which do allow their managers some latitude. Theycharge clients on an hourly basis, with the average fee being around £250.

"A lot of UK lenders have become very ossified," says Anthony McLean. "Mortgages are looked at in such a bare way: people must have three years' accounts and it's no use saying the profits will go up."

Mr McLean says mortgages up to 75 per cent of the value of the property were almost always possible. Above that level lenders have to worry about insuring the loan, and that is where the problems arise. Sometimes the answer is to get another family member to guarantee the top slice of the mortgage. In one recent case where a first-time buyer wanted a 95 per cent mortgage on a £75,000 flat, his father-in-law guaranteed the top £7,000 which kept the indemnifier happy.

"Lenders perceive self-employment to be a high risk," says Mr McLean. "But these days many self-employed people are in a safer position than people employed by a firm."

Hector McLean Financial Consultants can be contacted on 0181-995 1499.

p The 15th-century Wardsbrook Farmhouse in Ticehurst, East Sussex, was rescued from disrepair by its present owners, much as Teresa Gorman rescued her 15th-century farmhouse near Grays in Essex. But instead of being threatened with a fine and imprisonment for breaching planning regulations, they have won the approval of English Heritage and the field archaeology unit of University College London.

The timber-frame house, with a peg tiled roof, has some walls which out-lean the tower at Pisa. But inside it has been rearranged to suit modern family requirements, with three reception rooms, five bedrooms and three bathrooms. Savills in Sevenoaks (0732 455551) is asking £435,000.

Similarly ancient and picturesque is The Pitchmarket in the centre of the Dorset village of Cerne Abbas. It sits in a row of timber-frame cottages, with overhanging first floors and flint walls. Unusually for a small, private house, it is listed Grade 1.As befits its listing, many of the ancient timbers, fireplaces and panels remain in the three reception rooms and four bedrooms. Behind the house is a walled garden with views west over the countryside. It is being sold by Jackson-Stops and Staff in Dorchester (0305 262123) for £210,000.