Delays in getting valuation surveys carried out and conveyancers struggling with increased workloads are stretching sales out by well over an extra month – leaving buyers’ and sellers’ nerves jangling.
The length of time between ‘sale agreed’ and ‘exchange’ is now five weeks longer than normal, according to one agent.
Douglas Sleaper, sales director of Townends in the home counties, said that an increase in mortgage lending and “fewer surveyors in the market” means that home buyers are facing delays.
These are exacerbated, he said, by solicitors acting for both purchasers and sellers taking longer to raise and answer questions.
Sleaper said that the system is not geared up for the pace of change in the improving housing market, where Townends have seen sales climb back to 2007 levels.
He said the speed at which the market has accelerated over the last few months has brought with it some unintended consequences.
Sleaper said: “There is insufficient capacity within the system to cope with the additional sales numbers.
“When the market dropped, many surveying and conveyancing firms trimmed their headcount and most companies have been running lean in a drive to be as efficient as possible.
“The problem now is that whilst demand has increased, there are no more surveyors today than there were six months ago.
“This is made worse by the higher levels of lending that are filtering though, with remortgage numbers also increasing.
“However, firms are cautious about increasing head-count until it is proven to be more than a short-term blip.”
The RICS has denied that there is a shortage of surveyors but has accepted that there are delays, and has launched an independent inquiry.
The RICS says that one reason for the problem is that lenders’ panels have squeezed surveyors’ margins so much that the work is barely worth their while; a second reason is that surveyors are under huge pressure over their valuations, and run the very real risk of litigation together with increases in their Professional Indemnity Insurance.
First Published in Introducer Today