Belfast Telegraph

General election could put already slowing housing market on pause

The property market could be put on pause this summer as potential home buyers sit it out to await the outcome of the general election, it has been suggested.

There have already been signs of the housing market slowing down in recent months amid signs of consumer caution over the uncertain economy and Brexit.

Stamp duty changes have also led to weakened demand for new properties from buy-to-let investors, according to property market reports.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) recently reported that the number of properties sitting on estate agents' books has fallen to a record low amid a lack of impetus in the housing market.

There were 43 unsold properties per branch on average in March, the lowest figure since it started collecting the data.

Commenting on the prospect of a general election on June 8, Yorkshire Building Society economist Andrew McPhillips said: "The housing market is going through a sluggish period at present and a general election adds to the chances of it lasting longer.

"Home buyers who are well on the way to making a purchase have traditionally not been put off by such surprise macro-events but those only thinking about it may decide to pause."

Sarah Beeny, owner of estate agent Tepilo, said: "Today's announcement about the general election has come as an enormous surprise, so we may see some slight signs of uncertainty in the market between now and June 8.

"However, it means that whoever wins will start with a clean slate, which will be a good thing for the housing market."

Jeremy Leaf, a north London estate agent and a former residential chairman of Rics, said: " The period of indecision starts from now until the election and thankfully it is relatively short.

"Inevitably, a lot of decision-making will be put on hold, particularly as the polls fluctuate, and that includes the decision to buy and sell property."

But he said a decisive election result, whatever the outcome, could result in a surge in housing market activity afterwards.

Alison Platt, chief executive of estate agency network Countrywide, said past trends have shown a clear correlation between general elections and levels of sales in the property market.

She said: "Analysis of sales transactions over the course of the last nine general elections indicates there will be a dip in activity pre-election, but post-election there will be a bounce-back in the number of sales in the market.

"The highest levels are typically in the three months immediately following the election of a new government, where you're looking at around 13% higher than the average expected levels.

"The short timescale between now and the election also means that any consumer hesitancy pre-election will have less of an impact on transactions overall."