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Industry Comment June 14, 2024

Upcoming general election poised to impact property market

As the UK gears up for the upcoming general election and outcome, the property market is set to face the impact. Members of The Guild of Property Professionals have shared their perspectives on the challenges and potential solutions that the new government could implement to improve the housing sector.


Commenting on what he would like to see from the newly elected government, Melfyn Williams from Williams & Goodwin The Property People in Wales, emphasises the need to modernise the Land Registry to become the central hub of the housing market.  “This modernisation would include extending current title documents to encompass material information, thereby facilitating quicker and smoother transactions,” he adds.


He also calls for better collaboration with the devolved powers to create an even playing field across the UK property market and urges the cessation of ministerial interference that often leads to unintended consequences, such as those seen with Land Transaction Tax and stamp duty thresholds and proposed implementation of Article 4 in parts of Wales.


Williams identifies key challenges, including confidence, stability, and uncertainty caused by frequent changes in ministers, people with possible conflicts of interest influencing government, lack of stock, and the perception in some parts of the country of a shift towards social housing over owner-occupied properties. He suggests that a cross-party Housing Minister with an understanding of the industry, appointed for a five-year term with performance goals, could provide much-needed stability and expertise.


Regarding the election’s impact on buyers and sellers, Williams predicts short-term uncertainty followed by market responses to policy changes. He emphasises the need for balanced and fair policies regardless of the election outcome.


James Du Pavey from James Du Pavey Estate Agents underscores the issue of housing supply, criticising large developers for holding back land banks and advocating for improved planning timeframes and support for smaller developers. He also points out that the accumulation of taxes on new builds, affordable housing, community infrastructure levy and now biodiversity net gain along with the new building regulations are rendering many development sites unviable.


Katie Griffin from Sawdye & Harris notes that the biggest challenge has to be the time it is taking to progress transactions from sale agreed to completion, despite increased efforts to expedite processes upfront. She also calls for regulation across all estate agents to ensure professionalism, given that property is often a person’s largest asset. Griffin notes a recent uptick in offers and viewings, suggesting a robust market in the lead-up to the election.


Dan Henry, Partner at Bensons in Northern Ireland, points out that while Northern Ireland is a devolved institution, most of the policy still resides in Westminster. He highlights the inefficiencies and lack of accountability within public bodies as major concerns. “In recent years this seems to have become significantly worse with limited accountability for a poor level of service from the relevant personnel. There is also no cohesive thinking or a consistent/coordinated approach between all relevant stakeholders,” he adds.


Henry also points to other challenges such as affordability issues among working and middle-class families, which has resulted in a reduced supply of second-hand homes in the marketplace, the impact of policies requiring 20% social housing in developments over 25 dwellings, and the rise of Airbnb and second homes in popular tourist destinations. 

“I feel a lot of the issues emanate from a significant level of underfunding over a long period. They potentially are issues best dealt with by local devolved Government. Currently they do not have the resources or powers to effectively deal with the underlying problems, he comments.


John Newhouse, Managing Director, Roseberry Newhouse calls for an overhaul of the conveyancing process, advocating for greater digital integration to speed up transactions and reduce the high fall-through rate. “The current system has been under review for years with no progression ironically,” he adds. 


Newhouse also stresses the need for higher compliance and qualifications for estate agents to enhance professionalism in the industry. 


He notes that aside from the constant change in Ministers, one of the biggest challenges is that current lettings policies favour tenants too heavily, causing landlords to exit the market, which exacerbates supply issues. “Landlords are fast becoming larger entities that will control the market,” Newhouse comments. 


As the election approaches, the insights from The Guild of Property Professionals underscore the critical need for thoughtful and informed policymaking to stabilise and improve the UK property market.


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