Surveyors predict the return of widespread valuation delays if there is an expected boost in activity after the general election.
The market was dogged by huge delays in the summer of 2013, with a Mortgage Strategy investigation showing some of the UK’s biggest surveyors had stopped taking on new business in the busiest postcode areas while others were reporting delays of up to five weeks.
In April last year the problem resurfaced, albeit to a lesser extent.
Some of the biggest surveyors have taken on new graduates to ease the problem but experts warn this may not be enough when activity picks up.
According to the Bank of England, approvals were down 11 per cent in February, although lending is expected to reach £222bn this year, up from around £205bn last year.
Residential Property Surveyors Association chairman Alan Milstein says a combination of an ageing surveyors sector and the potential for an uptick in lending could cause a return of delays.
He says: “I can see a set of circumstances where later in 2015 there is once again a shortage in the supply chain for mortgage lender valuations.
“First of all, the age profile of the valuer community remains late 50s, even though the corporates have recruited and are training new people. Therefore, there are competent valuers retiring all the time and, dependent on the result of the general election, a late spring bounce in property transaction levels and thus mortgage lending is quite feasible.”
Moreover, Milstein says that independent surveyors prefer home condition survey work to valuing properties, further compounding the problem.
He adds: “This means that the backup resource for the corporates in providing valuations, which is normally supplied by the independent surveyor community, is busy doing other work.”
The market is also yet to see the full effects of the Chancellor’s stamp duty reforms, which could boost demand further, as could the pension reforms.
Your Mortgage Decisions director Dominik Lipnicki says: “The whole country has paused before the election, which is why lending is down, but it will pick up.
“And there are other factors: sooner or later, if lenders keep lending so little, they will loosen criteria, which will increase lending.
“And with the recent pensions changes, you will have pensioners buying buy-to-lets or helping out their kids to buy a home. This means we may well go back to having to wait three or four weeks for a valuation.”