SBAB attacked over commission hand-outs to estate agencies

State-owned mortgage lender SBAB is reportedly using a loophole in the law to encourage estate agencies to recommend their services to new house-owners.

SBAB attacked over commission hand-outs to estate agencies

According to an article in newspaper Dagens Nyheter, SBAB is giving commission to estate agencies to act as an intermediary with customers and help them negotiate a SBAB mortgage.

The law forbids individual estate agents to receive financial gain for such actions or recommending related services required when buying a property because it could damage customer confidence.

But the same rules do not apply to firms.

Customers are not informed of the joint cooperation, despite the fact it can be interpreted as a way of dodging the law.

Yet, because SBAB hand out commission payments to companies the law is not being broken.

The situation does not fall under the remit of the Swedish Board of Supervision of Estate Agents (Fastighetsmäklarnämnden) because they only review the conduct of estate agents on an individual basis.

But the board’s chief Anna-Lena Järvstrand told DN that she intends to further investigate the collaboration.

Eva Cederbalk, CEO of SBAB, fails to see a problem with the way her company is working with estate agencies.

“We don’t consider that we are evading the law,” she told DN.

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Can you really get paid for borrowing money in Denmark?

Last week, the Realkredit Denmark financial institution paid, for the first time, negative interest to a customer—meaning the customer was effectively paid for taking out a mortgage.

Can you really get paid for borrowing money in Denmark?
File photo: Kasper Palsnov / Ritzau Scanpix

Negative interest results in the customer effectively being paid by the lender to borrow money, or that they pay back less than they have loaned.

On Monday, the phenomenon was showing signs of spreading elsewhere in the country’s financial sector.

Homeowners who have taken out a certain type of loan known as an F5 loan, with which up to 40 percent of the house’s value can be borrowed, can, with Monday’s interest levels, find themselves paying minus 6 kroner per month to borrow 1 million kroner.

Interest on F5 loans is currently at -0.56 percent, with the repayment rate 0.55 percent. Those terms mean homeowners can be given money for borrowing money.

While last week’s negative interest mortgages were the result of a specific set of contributory circumstances, a larger group of borrowers could benefit this time, according to Christian Helligsøe Heinig, Realkredit Denmark’s head economist.

READ ALSO: Lender to launch Denmark's cheapest ever mortgage

“It will typically be homeowners in the senior age group, who think they have repaid enough and want to make their daily lives sweeter, who will be looking towards flexible repayment and F5 loans,” Heinig said.

Around 1 in 4 of homeowners borrowing from Realkredit Denmark have a loan-to-value ration of a maximum of 40 percent, he said.

But the situation is an “absurdity” that breaks with economic wisdom, he added.

It is partly caused by a flooding on the market of money available for investment, he said.

That is related to attempts made by central banks to stimulate the economy by increasing the amount that can be borrowed for investment in projects that can benefit society in an economic sense.

Another reason is the growing size of private savings, he said.

“In all cases, it is important to be clear that the opportunity to make money by borrowing money should not tempt ordinary members of the public to throw themselves into investments using borrowed money,” the economist said.

“There’s no such thing as a ‘free lunch’ in the current financial climate,” he said.

READ ALSO: What you need to know when buying a home as a foreigner in Denmark