Anyone wanting to invest in a residential property in the UK might want to keep a close eye on the political barometer.
For the first time in over 15 years there is a UK general election that appears too close to call – Labour may retain power or the Conservatives may win, just. It's also possible that no one party may have majority. The problem is this. Political uncertainty and worries over economic cutbacks likely to be introduced by the government whoever wins the election, have combined to deter sellers and buyers alike.
Richard Barber of London estate agency WA Ellis is outspoken about the effect of the election but his views reflect those of most property professionals in the UK.
"Home owners will face two or possibly three budgets this year and these together with the six weeks of baby-kissing that will precede the election, will bring the housing market to a screeching halt. It's possible that after the frantic start to the year the remaining nine months of 2010 will be a wash out," he warns.
The surge from summer 2009 until earlier this year has come to a halt and there is growing pessimism about the market. Anyone who wants to sell is likely to have to cut asking prices to attract reluctant buyers.
No one believes this torpor will last beyond the next few months, and longer-term price recovery still beckons. But anyone buying in the weeks ahead may just bag a bargain… thanks to the uncertainty of the British voter.
- Graham Norwood is property correspondent of The Observer