Source: Property Wire
New Prime Minister Boris Johnson could be positive for the UK’s property market, particularly if he delivers Brexit on time and reforms stamp duty, according to industry commentators.
Although change may not come quickly as it is likely he will focus initially on getting Brexit sorted out, although that on its own will give more certainty to the housing market. The overall feel is that he will inject more enthusiasm into the sector.
‘Brexit has continued to be something of a grey cloud that has loomed over the top end of the market for nigh on three years now and continues to be the driving force behind its instability, particularly in prime central London,’ said Lisa Simon, head of residential at Carter Jonas.
‘Promises from Johnson around the relief of onerous taxes is a potentially positive move for the market but this all hinges on whether or not the new Prime Minister can hold his position and prevail against the opposition in the event of a general election,’ she explained.
She believes that it might be better to adopt more of a Jeremy Hunt mindset and she thinks his proposed policies would have served home owners well. ‘Hunt’s plans to put more steam behind the private rental sector and allowing councils to buy land, to commission more homes at a price people can afford, would have made home ownership more accessible to aspiring first time buyers in the capital and so Johnson should consider bringing Hunt’s vision for housing to life under his own leadership,’ she pointed out.
‘Johnson’s intentions to generate more movement in the top end should clear some of the blockages further down the chain but home ownership and affordability in the mass market is still an issue that is yet to be addressed in the right way. While benefits to the top end should filter down, Johnson should be driving forward policies that tackle challenges in the middle and lower end of the market more head on,’ she added.
According to Camilla Dell, manging director at Black Brick, a move to reverse the stamp duty increases put in place by George Osborne, when the top rate increased from 7% to 12%, would be very good news, particularly for the London market which has been suffering from an onslaught of tax hikes on property since the end of 2014.
‘There is now clear evidence that the stamp duty increases have started to dent the tax take. We would welcome a review of current property taxation, particularly the 3% surcharge and proposed 1% additional charge on foreign buyers, which has had the effect of pouring glue into the market and resulting in a dramatic fall in the number of transactions happening on an annual basis,’ she explained.
‘Furthermore, a move to cut stamp duty on homes below £500,000 would clearly benefit the first-time buyer market. In our opinion, this should only apply to first time buyers and not investors. However, the market needs to treat promises made by Boris Johnson with real caution,’ she added.
Robert Nichols, chief executive officer of Portico estate agents, pointed out that it is no secret that stamp duty hampers household mobility and the higher the tax, the more difficult it is for people to move and keep the market moving.
‘We saw the market go into standstill when George Osborne hiked up stamp duty for homes valued at £925,000 or more in 2014. There was a huge spike in volume as investors and second-home buyers rushed to buy properties before the stamp duty changes came into effect in April,’ he said.
‘But as quickly as volumes went up, they came down again dramatically and in Westminster, prime central London, we saw volumes drop to below 100 transactions in a month to a record low of 84. If Boris Johnson does reduce stamp duty, it would certainly invigorate the top end of the property market and we should see transactions increase,’ he added.