Rush to sell homes before the general election fight

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The Independent Online

Homeowners have been putting their properties up for sale to beat the general election, according to the latest survey by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

The Rics says there has been a marked increase in the number of vendors in recent weeks: the jump in the number of sellers was the largest since May 2007, and has dampened expectations for house prices. "Surveyors report that political uncertainty is pushing vendors to market their property before the impending election," the Rics adds.

A net balance of 21 per cent of surveyors saw a rise in new instructions, which compares with a balance of 16 per cent in February.

But the number of buyers stabilised in March, suggesting that the outlook for prices has grown poorer. Most observers of the real-estate scene put the mini-boom in house prices during the second half of last year largely down to a shortage of quality properties coming on to the market. That trend seems set to reverse. Recent price data from Nationwide and Halifax has been mixed, due to the the distorting effects of the stamp duty holiday that ended on 1 January. Mortgage approvals have been volatile; though in any case way down on their pre-credit crunch norms.

Ian Perry, a Rics spokesman, said: "With the general election approaching and uncertainty growing over the political direction of the country, many vendors who were previously inclined to sit on the sidelines now appear eager to put their properties on the market.

"With stocks increasing and sales decreasing we may see some modest price falls in some regions, although London, the South-east and Scotland are continuing to perform well."

More support for housing will come from the Government's new stamp duty holiday for the next two years for first-time buyers on properties under £250,000.