Self-employed struggle to avoid the glaring access gap

  • Nearly one in seven (14%) self-employed borrowers are less likely to get their mortgage approved than any other ‘under-served’ group.¹

  • Surprising approval rates for retirees (86%) and those with bad credit (89%) eclipse those for the self-employed (76%).²

  • Nearly half of self-employed people (44%) believe the mortgage system is unfair.³

Self-employed borrowers are struggling to get mortgage applications approved by lenders, resulting in an ‘access gap’ compared to those with more ‘traditional’ employment, according to research from online mortgage broker, Trussle.

Findings from Trussle’s industry report, the Mortgage Saver Review, revealed the self-employed make up 23% of all ‘specialist’ cases received by lenders.⁴ In fact, since Trussle’s inception in 2015 to date, it has seen 54% more mortgage applications from the self-employed, compared to any other under-served group.⁵ These included first-time buyers, retirees, those on low income and those with adverse credit.

However, despite the volume of self-employed mortgage applications, approval rates are up to 14% lower than these groups, at just 76%.⁶ Those with bad credit and those borrowing at a high loan-to-value (LTV) ratio had far more success, at 89% and 85%⁷ respectively. First-time buyers had the best approval rates overall at 90%, closely followed by the retired at 86%.⁸ This emphasises how great a risk the self-employed are perceived by the mortgage industry.  

Trussle’s insights around the self-employed chime with the latest Confidence Index from IPSE, looking at the economic outlook of the self-employed in the UK. The latest report revealed that despite a drop in confidence regarding their own business performance in the next 12 months due to the impending changes to IR35 and the sluggish economy; a quarter (25%) are in fact more confident about the year ahead of them.⁹  

As part of its research, Trussle analysed why the “mortgage access gap” persists for the self-employed. One of the biggest challenges is the degree in which their employment history is scrutinised. While permanently employed applicants need only provide their job contract, the self-employed must prove up to three years of work. This means those in self-employment for less than this time period could be rejected outright. 

When it comes to mortgage affordability assessments, it’s also a more complicated process for self-employed borrowers. Applications require the average of the last two years’ income, compared to the last three months of income for permanently employed applicants - as well as financial commitments and outgoings.

28% of self-employed mortgage applicants and borrowers think considering future earning potential or projections would be fairer¹⁰ and over a quarter (26%) think having a specific financial test for the self-employed due to their different needs would level the playing field.¹¹ 

To read the third edition of the Mortgage Saver Review click here.

Miles Robinson, Head of Mortgages at Trussle, commented: ”The government encourages entrepreneurship, but the mortgage industry is not keeping pace with how fast the self-employed sector is expanding. This group is being let down time and time again with a challenging and confusing mortgage journey, which is resulting in less mortgages being approved by lenders.

Enough is enough. The industry must work collaboratively to update its requirements and close this “mortgage access gap” to support the self-employed. 

We’re using our own data to design flexible products for specific under-served groups, like the self-employed. This will be a significant step in our commitment to making mortgages fairer for all.”

– ENDS –

Notes to editors

For further information, please contact:

Katie Halfhead at Trussle: [email protected] / 020 3884 0368

Rupert Bhatia or Jess Riley at Teamspirit for Trussle: [email protected] / 020 7861 3827

We’ve taken extra care to ensure the information provided within this release is presented in a way that’s compliant with regulatory requirements. If you have any questions about how to repurpose this information or require any further assistance, please contact Katie Halfhead at Trussle.


Trussle interviewed 2,002 nationally representative UK self-employed homeowners and those looking to buy in March 2019 using the research agency, Atomik. Please get in touch with any data enquiries. 

1 Source: Trussle’s mortgage applicant data, March 2019  

2 Source: Trussle’s mortgage applicant data, March 2019 

3 Q11b: To what extent do you feel that financial assessments are fair for self-employed people 

Calculation: 33% responded ‘Not very fair’ and 10% responded ‘Not at all fair’

4 Source: Trussle’s mortgage applicant data, March 2019

5 Source: Trussle’s mortgage applicant data, February 2020 

6 Source: Paragon Banking Group, The Financial Advisor Confidence Tracking index, 2018 [7] Source: Trussle’s mortgage applicant data, March 2019

[8] Source: Trussle’s mortgage applicant data, March 2019

[9] Source: Confidence Index, Q4 2019: IPSE

[10] Q11a: What do you think a fair financial assessment looks like for self-employed applicants? 28% responded ‘Considering future earning potential/projections’

[11] Q11a: What do you think a fair financial assessment looks like for self-employed applicants? 26% responded ‘Having specific testing for the self-employed due to different needs’

About Trussle

Trussle helps people love their journey of owning a home. We’re the online mortgage broker helping you wherever you are on the ladder.

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In September 2016 Trussle launched an industry-first partnership with online property portal Zoopla, making it possible to find and buy a home in one seamless experience. Trussle is backed by some of Europe's leading technology investors including Orange Growth Capital, LocalGlobe, Ed Wray (founder of Betfair), Ian Hogarth (founder of Songkick), Seedcamp, and Zoopla Property Group.

Trussle is a trading style of Trussle Lab Ltd, which is an appointed representative of Mortgage Advice Bureau Limited and Mortgage Advice Bureau (Derby) Limited which are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

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