Mortgage lending has been deliberately held back to depress the housing market and reduce transactions, it has been claimed.
The theory is advanced in a new book by estate agent and chartered surveyor Robert Smeaton.
He believes that mortgage rationing has been exercised to aid the expansion of large corporate agents and that when they have achieved what they deem to be sufficient control of the housing market, lending criteria will be relaxed to allow transactions to rise again.
The corporates will then become profitable on a huge scale.
Meanwhile, he asserts: “Perhaps the easiest way to get market share for the corporate estate agent is very simply to stop people buying houses.”
It is not, says Smeaton, understood by the general public just how banks and other institutions have influenced estate agency, surveying and mortgage broking, “in order that the profit from housing transactions goes to large corporate firms and the City, rather than local professionals”.
While not everyone may buy this theory, Smeaton points to the likes of Countrywide and its £250m financial facilities provided by a banking syndicate that includes Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds and NatWest.
He also points to the big acquisition sprees that the corporates have been on – although these have largely dried up since spring.
His book does not just dwell on the conspiracy theory, however, and its 215 pages touch on a very wide range of subjects, including advice for sellers and buyers, what they can expect of estate agents, and online agents (who he believes do not understand the marketplace).
Smeaton set up two-branch Smeatons Estate Agents in the Lake District in 1990. His previous firm was the last company to be bought by the Prudential, in October 1987. His employment lasted just six months – “I was not a corporate,” he says.
* The Real Estate Agent – the Great Conspiracy Theory, by Robert J Smeaton is published by Austin Macauley at £6.99.