Why the pandemic has impacted surveyors the most

Ray Harriot, founder of Reliable Property Group

The continued question mark over the Stamp Duty holiday has led to a huge rise in buyers all desperate to complete quickly and this pressure is resonating throughout the professional market, from estate agents to surveyors and conveyancers. The home buying process is slow at the best of times but this huge spike in demand is making an archaic system creak even more slowly as various companies work through their client lists at different speeds and with different priorities.

For all those professionals working in the property industry, the pandemic has arguably challenged and impacted surveyors the most. PPE must be worn while conducting house visits and properties must be empty of residents before surveys can take place. While these measures are not too drastic, they do mean that even the smallest delay can have serious knock on effects, as it can be extremely difficult to rearrange after last minute cancelations.

On top of this, there are more factors out of everyone’s control. For example if a vendor catches COVID and needs to isolate at home, or if an elderly vendor doesn’t have the ability to vacate for long periods of time, purchases cannot progress until an appropriate time becomes available to conduct the survey. While these delays can incentivise buyers to cut corners when it comes to surveys, this can delay proceedings even further if issues are raised too late or, in a worst case scenario, will cost them far more getting fixed than they saved from the Stamp Duty holiday.

While the effects of the pandemic have not directly affected conveyancers too heavily, the archaic and inefficient system is incapable of handling the stamp duty driven rush. As information needs to be obtained from already overworked councils, there can be long and unexpected waits. These delays mean that rather than a steady flow of completions, the demand gets pent up and further stress and strain gets placed on the cracking system.

The silver lining to the pandemic is that mortgage providers have reacted to the demand, improving the necessary infrastructure. Mortgage approval rates have reached their highest level since 2007, and many providers are offering 90% LTV products. While this is great news for buyers, the bottlenecks of conveyancing and surveying mean that transactions aren’t completing any faster. The good news also doesn’t spread to everyone, as some banks are refusing to provide mortgages to self-employed workers if they took Covid loans or income grants.

If anything, these delays show that the government needs to do a lot more than providing savings opportunities to improve the housing market. The Stamp Duty Holiday, while it has boosted demand in the market, is now driving the property sector towards a crash, as a potential 100,000 buyers caught up in Covid-related delays could end up pulling out of deals. The government must support councils, conveyancers and surveyors to improve the very infrastructure of the UK’s system. Doing so will reduce completion times while not sacrificing the integrity of the system.