Housing is a hot topic in politics. With people struggling to save for a deposit, banks becoming stricter on mortgage lending and a lack of affordable housing, it's no surprise that all of the main parties are making pledges around housing in the run up to the general election.
Being such an emotive topic, housing could well swing the vote one way or another. In fact, a recent article in the Independent highlighted how those on the waiting list for council housing in the top 100 marginal constituencies could greatly influence the outcome of the election .
All parties are in agreement that we need more homes. Labour repeated its promise to boost house building rates to 200,000 a year by 2020, the Lib Dems announced it would build more social housing and five new garden cities, and the Conservatives pledged to build 100,000 new starter homes that would be offered at a 20 per cent discount to first-time buyers under 40.
What isn't clear though, is what exactly the parties will do to achieve their goals. Interest rates won't stay at such a low rate for ever and when they do begin to rise it will be vital to ensure there is financial support available to help drive the housing market. One area that needs to be explored more is how to attract private investors, as with national debt remaining and funds limited, there is only so much the government can do.
Some of these doubts are shared by others. Mark Hayward, managing director of the National Association of Estate Agents, for example, doesn't think the UK has the resources in place to help bridge the gap between housing supply and demand. He said: A General Election will always cause uncertainty, whichever party is likely to come in to power and with the housing market being based solely on sentiment, any uncertainty may result in a temporary lull.
There have already been reports that the uncertainty around the General Election has impacted business. London-based estate agent Foxtons described the market as subdued and unlikely to pick up again until after the general election in May. And while the stamp duty reform was welcome news, the industry is yet to feel the real effects of it.
Property prices in general are showing signs of slowing down, with the latest figures from Nationwide showing prices rose 6.8 per cent in January this year compared to the same period in 2014 - the slowest increase in 14 months . Rightmove believes prices can stay consistent though, stating: Election jitters could lower the number of property transactions rather than lower prices, resulting in a moderate reduction from the high volumes seen in 2014, but with average prices driven up by the more resilient activity in popular locations.
Of course, house prices are an important factor to consider for the industry, but people need more financial support to help them get on the property ladder and keep the market moving. The likes of the Help to Buy scheme go some way to support this, but it will be interesting to see what other incentives - if any - are introduced by the winning party to really kick start the market.
Whether we see a surge of activity after the general election will depend on a number of factors; how quickly the winning party puts their housing promises into practice, what happens with interest rates, whether banks relax mortgage lending criteria, if any other financial incentives are introduced and whether the construction industry is able to fulfil the growing demand.
As an estate agent, what one factor do you think would make a real difference to the market in 2015
*Rachel Haymes is Head of Conveyancing at property and business law firm Ratio Law