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Leader: Surveyors ready for action?

The run-up to a general election is normally marked by a tail-off in activity – and this time is no different.

Despite the main parties pumping out largely similar messages on the importance of housing, the feeling in the industry is that consumers are taking a ‘wait and see’ approach.

This, combined with generally tight mortgage criteria, means lending is down year-on-year. But everything could change after 7 May, when we will know which government will run the country for the next five years and when Chancellor George Osborne’s pension freedom reforms will be one month old.

The general consensus is that a significant chunk of over-55s will release some of their pension pots to invest into buy-to-let, although, with the average defined contribution pot worth roughly £30,000, it remains to be seen how many people will be in a position to seriously consider this.

Even without a significant boost from would-be pensioner landlords, it is likely that lending will recover from its current malaise. However, some surveyors suggest we could see a return to the lengthy valuation delays that dogged the market during the past two summers.

Others are more positive, claiming the industry has taken steps to plug the gaps. But the process of recruiting and training new surveyors is a slow one and delays could well return – albeit they are unlikely to be as severe this time around.

Meanwhile, Axis Bank UK has revealed it will enter the UK buy-to-let market at the end of the month – another sign of an improving market.

Let’s hope the surveying industry is sufficiently reinforced to cope with a pick-up in activity or the mortgage industry will not be able to reap the rewards of this increase in competition.

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Chris Fairfax

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