More than 370,000 house transactions have been paused because of the government’s coronavirus lockdown measures, according to analysis by Zoopla.
Valuers say it is difficult to estimate how many of these will require a physical valuation because some will already have been surveyed, some will be cash transactions and some may be of a more complex nature that buyers have decided to put on hold during the pandemic.
However, at least 60,000 of the transactions currently on hold are expected to require a physical valuation according to an industry source. But some firms say the backlog is likely to be much higher. When physical valuations do resume, the surveying workforce is expected to be much smaller and it will take time to get back up and running to full speed.
Chris Bramham, commercial director, Metropolis Surveyors, said: “I think it will take up to two months to get back to serviceable levels. The industry wants speed from a surveying service but it will be some time before the backlog is cleared.”
Bramham said it could take even longer if not all valuers returned to work. “Surveyors are an ageing population. Some may decide not to come back.”
Richard Sexton, director, business development, esurv, said estimating the backlog was not as easy as just counting the number of cases in your own pipeline. Lenders too had a pipeline of unknown cases that, due to lockdown restrictions, they have not progressed to an instruction.
Talks have already been held with housing minister Christopher Pincher on how the housing sector can safely return to work while observing social distancing measures, according to the Mail on Sunday. Valuers who must carry out physical surveys will be expected to observe strict social distancing measures.
Furthermore, in the Prime Minister’s update on lockdown restrictions announced on Sunday evening, he said those who could not do their job at home, were actively encouraged to return to work. Surveyors have been left scratching their heads at whether this includes them and are hoping industry guidelines will soon follow.
Sexton said: “Even when we do return to work, it’s likely furloughed surveyors will be brought back in phases and restrictions may be different depending on where they are in the UK. There will also be less data around when looking for comparables. So getting on top of the backlog depends on how quickly we can unfurlough staff and get them back up to speed.”