A 3% increase the rate of stamp duty on buy-to-let and second homes, and a chunky pledge of extra funding for new housebuilding have set tongues wagging in the aftermath of the combined Autumn Statement and Spending Review, delivered by George Osborne on Wednesday afternoon.
Stamp duty news is – as you’d expect from any tax rise – pretty unpopular, with a real fear that rents will rise and investors scarper as a direct result, although there’s an underlying consensus that it seems like a fair way to raise extra revenues. There’s more lingering dissent about last year’s overhaul of SDLT, which is still bearing heavy on the top-end of the market.
And there are questions about the practicality of all this proposed new construction: we’re in the midst of a well-documented skills and brick shortage, so while the need for new homes is clear and present, the capability to deliver is rather more up in the air…
Here’s what the prime residential sector makes of this year’s Autumn Statement and Spending Review:
Extra stamp duty on buy-to-let shows the Government’s dislike of the rental sector
- Jennet Siebrits, Head of Residential Research, CBRE
“Today’s announcement by the Chancellor on increasing supply is a welcome move towards solving the housing crisis, but important questions still need to be answered.
“Firstly, are the 400,000 extra homes or just a subsidy for homes that were due to be built anyway?
“Secondly, while new homes for sale are welcome, what about the 1.4 million households on social housing lists who want to rent?
“And finally do we have the land, skilled workers and planning officers to actually deliver these homes?
“Less welcome is the extra stamp duty on buy-to-let, showing the Government’s dislike of the rental sector. This could add between £3,500 and £7,500 on the cost of a £250,000 property depending on the final detail.”
This new stamp duty rise may force vendors to accept that they need to be more realistic
- Louisa Brodie, Head of Search & Acquisitions, Banda Property
“There’s been a stand-off between vendors and buyers since last year’s across-the-board increases to SDLT, which has driven the central London market to a stalemate situation as vendors stubbornly hold out for prices of 18 months ago.
“News today of a further stamp duty increase of 3% for investors may hopefully end this stand-off, with vendors finally having to accept that they need to be more realistic and swallow a share of the increased buying costs by adjusting their prices.
“Investors have been hit twice now, with the loss of tax relief on mortgage interest payments and now higher stamp duty, but I’m confident that significant numbers will still be seeking a long-term home for their cash in London. Come the Spring, I am hopeful we will see a rise in transactions across Prime central London.”
Buy-to-let SDLT will further suppress transactions and prices in prime central London
- Lucian Cook, Head of Residential Research, Savills UK
“While the additional stamp duty charges for buy-to-let investors and second home owners announced in today’s Autumn Statement are unlikely to have a significant impact on the outlook for the UK housing market as a whole, there will be a number of sub-sectors where the impact is most felt.
“The prime London housing market has already been weighed down by the stamp duty changes introduced in last year’s Autumn Statement. However, evidence to date suggests that the stamp duty take from this part of the market has risen slightly.
“The likelihood is that this will further suppress transactions and prices in the prime central London market, given the extent to which this market has been supported by purchases from second home owners and investor buyers, meaning the ability for this additional levy to generate greater revenue from these buyer groups is less assured.
“More generally, buy to let investors are likely to become display greater caution faced with higher transaction costs. This is likely to be greatest among those with substantial debt who are also affected by the changes to tax relief that were announced in the July budget.
“These buyers have historically been particularly attracted to new-build housing. That means once the changes are introduced housebuilders will be less able to rely on this type of buyer and will have to focus more on demand for the shared ownership, starter homes and help to buy product that is supported by other Government policy.
“However in the short term, there is little doubt that some buy to let investors will bring forward their planned purchases to beat the April 2016 deadline and including those looking to extract cash from their pensions.”
SDLT has become the property equivalent of using reaper drones to deliver weapons
- Ed Mead, Executive Director, Douglas & Gordon
“It seems odd that in his political attempt to favour locals vs second home buyers and first-time buyers vs buy-to-let landlords, the Chancellor thinks that difference in value the parties represent a mere 3%, the extra amount of SDLT due to be levied from April on second homes and BTL landlords. Restricting the supply of property into the PRS, the biggest rental sector, risks limiting choice. Breaks for build-to-let by larger investors and a smart new way of managing assured short hold tenancies are what are required, not yet more suppression of demand.This all seems to work well on the continent and for many ownership is an unrealistsic, and sometimes not the best, solution to their housing needs. Again, supply is the key.
“The London Help to Buy will go somewhat to help satisfy the huge supply of new homes coming up in the capital so was a welcome addition as is the relaxation of Shared Ownership rules. For many having a safe newly built home makes sense and in an sector likely to be seeing some oversupply over the next three years or so, and given developers have to sell at a price without any discretionary luxury open to second hand sellers, there may be some reasonable deals around to use this new facility.
“It is a shame though to have seen the Chancellor yet again using SDLT as a battering ram. It seems to have become the property equivalent of using drones… remote and blunt. Every rise in it causes a little bit of the market to die.”
Fails to address the slowdown at the top-end of the market
- Robin Paterson, Chairman, United Kingdom Sotheby’s International Realty
“George Osborne has pledged £7bn to tackle home ownership issues in this country, but it is a shame he did not do more for all aspects of the UK market in today’s Autumn Statement. The additional 3% stamp duty on second homes is a fair way of raising funds however, by not altering excessive stamp duty levies that must be paid on top-tier UK homes, he has missed an opportunity to provide a major boost to the property market and encourage top-end activity. I feel that this is short-sighted by the Government as they have failed to address the slowdown at the top-end of the market and an increase in activity would have inevitably boosted Treasury receipts. The Chancellor could have put new, fairer stamp duty levels in place as so many London family homes, even in secondary areas, breach the £1.5m+ barrier. The six or seven-figure tax bills being paid for the highest value homes seems out of proportion with the Government’s other housing policies, which encourage activity.”
Rather short-sighted to continue to tinker with the property asset class
- Charles Curran, Principal, Maskells Estate Agents
“The additional 3% stamp duty to buy-to-let homes and second homes is an interesting move. We will need to see the detail from HMRC before making our final analysis but our initial thoughts are: firstly for second homes, if you are in a civil partnership or married, it is easy enough to buy a second property in the spouse or partner’s name. For example, if you spend the week in London and your spouse in the country, each property could be argued as being your primary residence. Overseas buyers will now be indifferent if they buy into a SPV or Trust versus buying it individually as the stamp duty payable is the same as the additional stamp duty. The upside of buying into a ‘structure’ is that it allows you to better plan for IHT and the financing of the asset the downside is the annual charge.
“For the buy to let market, our initial reaction is that the additional income tax payable under the proposed changes currently in consultation, were largely very unpopular. We understand that on this basis, representations have been made to the Exchequer by lawyers and accountants. Property companies (we need to see the fine print) may be excluded, so has the Chancellor provided an opportunity where landlords may consider buy-to-let companies where taxes may be paid on EBIT rather than on turnover (subject to close company rules)?
“However, it does seem rather short-sighted to continue to tinker with the one asset class that represents the largest single asset in terms of value an individual may own, and whose sense of confidence in the economy hinges on that value.”
New BtL SDLT legislation will either be punitive or there will be plenty of loopholes
- Ed Heaton,Founder, Heaton & Partners
“There will be an inevitable rush of people trying to secure buy-to-let properties before next April, although, this has to be in the context that the changes to the tax review have already made buy-to-lets a less attractive proposition to those with mortgages. It is as if the Chancellor is trying to help control house prices but, in doing so, is going to create an ever shrinking housing stock for rental.
“In terms of second homes, the devil will be in the detail to some extent. For example, someone who buys a new home, without having sold their existing one first, may be liable to the 3% surcharge. Even if there is an allowance for some cross over, what happens if the property they have bought needs extensive building work, so that they cannot move in for a year? Also, what happens if you own a share in a small holiday home in Cornwall, and then buy a large house as your principle private residence in London or the south east? Will this be classified as a second home? I suspect this new legislation will either be punitive or there will be plenty of loopholes for those who wish to play around with their elected principal private residence.”
A double whammy for landlords with mortgages
- Jonathan Adams, Director, Napier Watt
In his attempts to level the playing field by hitting overseas and cash buyers with a hike in stamp duty on buy-to-let of 3%, the Chancellor has served up a double-whammy for landlords with mortgages. They were penalised in the Summer Budget whereas cash buyers – the really wealthy investors – got away scot-free. But now buy-to-let mortgage holders will potentially have to pay up to 15% stamp duty on future purchases and lose out on mortgage interest tax relief.
“The result? Fewer landlords will come into the market, there will be a lack of supply and rents will rise. The other issue is that because the stamp duty hike won’t come in until April, we could see a rush of landlords buying before then, further pushing up prices in the short term.”
This Government does not understand the housing market well enough
- James Wyatt, Partner, Barton Wyatt
“The silence in my office is deafening. 3% extra stamp duty on second homes and buy-to-let purchases further reinforces that this Government does not understand the housing market well enough.
“The small amount of money over a long period of time for new housing doesn’t cut the mustard.
“The imbalance in the housing market will only increase further and further with taxes at the top and bottom end of the market way out of kilter.
“Property over £2m will struggle and the owners – largely Conservative supporters – will not thank the Government.”
Yet another limiter to the buy-to-let market
- Andy Martin, Senior Partner, Strutt & Parker
“The introduction of this new tax is yet another limiter to the buy-to-let market, in addition to the ones we saw on landlords in the July 2015 summer budget – and has the potential to weaken this element of the market from April 2016 when it comes into effect.
“The fundamental issue of London’s growing population and limited housebuilding has not really been tackled head-on by these new measures. In fact, many new build development schemes have only got off the ground because of the willingness of investors – whether domestic or overseas – to buy off-plan and effectively forward-fund these schemes.
“Some of the Government’s demand side measures, aimed to help first time buyers, will help demand from that segment but typically owner occupiers and first time buyers are generally unwilling to buy off-plan, when BTL investors have traditionally been far more keen to get involved.
“Therefore we believe that this measure is likely to damage development – leading to a shortage of supply and further upward pressure on rents and capital values. Prime London in particular has the potential to be disproportionately impacted.”
Will suppress the buy-to-let market even further
- Alan Waxman, Managing Director, Landmass London
“By increasing the stamp duty on second properties by 3%, George Osborne has effectively looked to reduce the number of people looking to purchase properties as investments. Whether it will completely eliminate the buy-to-let market remains to be seen but it will certainly suppress it more than ever.
“His logic is that he is stopping people looking upon property as a pure financial investment and, in turn, giving families a fighting chance to find somewhere affordable. However, higher costs for landlords in the future will mean higher costs for tenants in the private rented sector; there will simply be a knock on effect.
“It’s also likely to cause a rush of investors to beat the deadline in April next year which could quite easily warrant house prices significantly increasing over the coming months.”
There is a danger that new SDLT rates for buy-to-let properties will kill the market
- Jeremy Leaf, founder, Jeremy Leaf & Co (and former RICS chairman)
“In hiking stamp duty on buy-to-let, Osborne is trying to level the playing field further but in aiming for political expedience he is demonstrating practical naivety. Many buy-to-let investors underpin some of the bigger developments in particular. There is a danger that it will kill the market and result in some developments not happening at all.
“Landlords will either sell or not add to their portfolios at a time when we need more affordable accommodation. Such a move inevitably puts extra upward pressure on rents.
“Any measures that help first-time buyers are good for the whole housing market. Help to Buy is helpful for those who can’t raise much of a deposit and there is definitely more interest in such schemes but it is a question of delivery. It is taking too long to build flats and houses and get them onto the market.
“400,000 new homes is encouraging but we have yet to see the detail – where will they be built, when will they be built and how? Do we have the capacity to deliver the necessary labour and materials? The devil will be very much in the detail.
“It is vital that we help small house builders as they are the life blood of the supply chain. Barriers to entry are considerable and the government must address these if housebuilding targets are to be met.
“While it is pleasing to see housing at the top of the political agenda, where it should be, the private rental market is not being supported. Landlords came under attack in the Summer Budget, with the removal of valuable tax breaks and are further under attack here with a stamp duty hike. Politicians are missing a trick: while politically it is more attractive to assist people in buying their own homes, there needs to be a counter balance with affordable housing to rent. The advantage of this as far as government is concerned is that it is much quicker to deliver affordable rental accommodation – no need for buyers to obtain mortgages or for planning issues to be resolved.”
There will be a rush of second home buyers and buy to let purchasers
- Mark Parkinson, Director, Middleton Advisors
“In theory, the commitment to record house building coupled with further relaxation of planning laws should help alleviate the housing shortage, however measures announced in previous budgets have not managed to have a significant impact.
“Many in the London and south of England property market had hoped in vain for a ‘soothing pill’ to ease the pain of last year’s stamp duty hikes; however, the Chancellor appears to have gone the other way, increasing stamp duty on second homes and buy to lets by 3% from next April. The detail is yet to be published, but if the effect of the last stamp duty rise is anything to go by, there will be a rush of second home buyers and buy to let purchasers trying to close a deal before next April. Obviously this means the top rate stamp duty for someone buying a large weekend or holiday home rises to an eye watering 15%.
“On the basis that people tend to buy holiday homes and second homes with a long term view the effect on this market is likely to be muted, compared to the ‘spreadsheet market’ of buy to let investors who have already been hit in the last budget.”
We will see some fantastic opportunities in the market coming from this across London and the rest of the country
- Alex Newall, Managing Director, Hanover Private Office
“Biggest building plan since the 1970s – more gains for the UK low cost housing market. The huge demand for low cost housing in the UK has forced the Government to double its housing budget to help deliver the desperately needed 400,000 new homes in the UK to rent and to buy. George Osborne says the right-to-buy will be extended to housing association tenants (a promise mentioned in the Conservatives’ election manifesto), starting with a new pilot scheme in five housing associations from midnight tonight. Some old prisons will be sold to free up sites for new housing stock, and councils will be able to keep the money from sales of properties they own – a new incentive for them to sell up unwanted properties. We will see some fantastic opportunities in the market coming from this across London and the rest of the country. This move is one of the most major house building initiatives since the 1970s and there will be wide spread opportunity for families to buy their own homes resulting in demand which eventually will be met with supply.
“The chancellor announced a new London help-to-buy scheme, attributing the policy to Zac Goldsmith’s campaigning. There will be a 3% increase in stamp duty for buy-to-let properties and second homes, effective from next year. Corporate property development won’t be affected, so new investors will need careful structuring and advice, and we could see single investors using this time to acquire now and hold. Existing single landlords will most likely hold, rather than sell, meaning less stock on the market. Overall, we’ll see more regional growth and more homes being bought at the lower levels of the market, providing an even stronger base for the UK housing market. Stamp duty is low in this segment and there is huge desire from the population to own their own homes. New 5% deposit schemes, and 40% interest free government debt, and shared equity programmes are being expanded – meaning more availability of credit. This wall of available finance, low rates of stamp duty below £925,000 and huge demand will lift market volumes.
“In addition to this, we should see continued interest in the farm land market and the commercial property market which remains unaffected by taxation and growing demand for land and premises from the strengthening UK economy.”
Government is really putting its money where its mouth is
- Melanie Leech, Chief Executive, British Property Federation
“This could be a seminal moment for the Government, and the start of a building programme that actually delivers. By committing billions of pounds to building new homes, Government is really putting its money where its mouth is, and has set itself some ambitious targets that it must not fall short of.
“Government must understand that new homes must be built in locations with good transport links, social infrastructure such as hospitals and schools, and leisure and employment facilities. No-one wants to live in a new house built in the middle of nowhere, with no shops, jobs or community facilities nearby. Great places are also those which have a variety of housing types to suit different demographics, and the Build to Rent sector must not be pushed aside in blind pursuit of making us a nation of homeowners.
An incredibly positive Autumn Statement
- James Bailey, Chief Executive, Henry & James
“For many months now, we have been talking about the housing chain and the importance of getting first-time buyers on the ladder. It has been an incredibly positive Autumn Statement.
“The fact is, everything has a knock-on effect, and what the Chancellor has done, at last, is to create a flow, and that is the important thing.
“It will give help not just to the 20-year-olds, but to the 30-and 40-year-olds who haven’t been able to get onto the first rung of the housing ladder.
“I had no expectation of Osborne reducing stamp duty. In fact, he has put it up by 3% on buy-to-let purchases and second homes. I was expecting this because the Bank of England has been hinting at this for some time.
“On the other hand, as a taxpayer and a father of four, this Autumn Statement is going to have a rejuvenating factor, especially outside London, in places like Cornwall and Devon.”
Yet another grenade thrown at the property market
- Vic Chhabria, Managing Director, Rescorp
“The additional 3% stamp duty to be levied on Buy to Let mortgages is yet another grenade thrown at the property market. Transactions have already been hit hard at the upper level of the market however this is a blow to the occasional or first time property investor. So in essence, what the Government are saying is that if you want to buy property, and no matter at what level, you need to pay the piper and do so royally.”
This Government’s narrow focus on home ownership is a serious concern
- Adam Challis, Head of Residential Research, JLL
“The Chancellor’s support for 400,000 new affordable homes is welcomed at a time when there is a dire need to expand housing construction right across the country. This Government’s narrow focus on home ownership is a serious concern however. Support for the private rented sector and social housing is vital to protect the financial stability of millions of households, for whom ownership is beyond reach.
“The private rented sector is the fastest growing tenure in the UK and deserves direct support through the planning system and through the release of public land. Social housing investment provides vital security to more vulnerable households, while also reducing the heavy current reliance on temporary accommodation.
“Housing delivery desperately needs long-term planning rather than short-term interventions. They are disruptive to construction programmes and ultimately weaken the system of delivery. Housing should be viewed as infrastructure that protects household stability and supports economic growth.
“A 3% increase in stamp duty for investors and second-home purchasers is an incredibly blunt instrument to deal with a complex set of housing market issues. In principle this will reduce the competition between first-time buyers and investors for many properties, while also dis-incentivising some second-home purchasers. However, there are a number of negative impacts from this change. First, a reduction in the viability of investment will reduce rental market stock – the fastest growing tenure – in the UK, which will put immediate upward pressure on rents. This is a very important part of the housing market, with 110,000 buy to let purchases in the last year alone. This stock is vital to meet the growing rental demand.
“New build properties are heavily reliant on off-plan investors to trigger development finance. A reduction in demand from this group will dramatically reduce the viability of many new build schemes, reducing supply. It is extraordinary that the Chancellor has not ring-fenced new build property from this change, as it will act in direct contradiction to the raft of Government policy designed to expand the rate of housing construction.
“Many holiday home locations, notably in rural and coastal communities, should see some of the pressure on local housing markets reduced. This may be the one element of the stamp duty change that makes sense, as it will help protect the vitality of these local communities.”
“Finally, this is yet another targeted intervention into a housing market that is in dire need of long-term decision making. The raft of policy changes are incredibly disruptive to market activity and create uncertainty, that results in dis-investment. The Government does not seem interested in the market distortions it causes through its actions.”
We are concerned that nearly 90% of the new homes announced over the life of this parliament will be for ownership
- Richard Petty, Lead Director Residential Advisory, JLL
“Whilst we welcome the government’s initiatives to increase housing supply, and in particular the delivery of new affordable homes, we are concerned that nearly 90% of the new homes announced over the life of this parliament will be for ownership, leaving potentially only about 50,000 for affordable rent. We must not lose sight of the fact that, for many people and families, owning their own home will remain unattainable even with the discounts and opportunities available. Housing will remain expensive to buy and costly to maintain. We need to provide good homes for those people as well, and that is where housing associations have the leading role to play. They need the government’s funding and support as well as, if not more than, aspiring owners.”
- Lucy Morton, Head of Residential Agency, W.A.Ellis and JLL
“It is very disappointing that the Government is discouraging buy-to-let investors by increasing stamp duty land tax (SDLT) on such purchases; with the average age of first time buyers now circa 40 years old, renting is the only option for an increasing number and the Government should be promoting ‘generation rent’ and assisting with the housing crisis where demand is outweighing supply in many areas. The investment community, particularly the individual buy-to-let landlords, will not trust this policy and it could have a negative impact on the demand for off-plan purchases and new homes.”
We shall have to wait and see how HMRC will enforce the charge to second homes and buy-to-let properties
- Simon Barnes, H. Barnes & Co
“The talking point is the 3% increase to stamp duty on second homes and buy-to-let. As always the devil will be in the detail and it will be interesting to see how the Chancellor proposes to police this levy. From the outside, I am always sceptical of any legislation that relies on peoples’ honesty, unless this is targeting ‘property investing clergy’ then we shall have to wait and see how HMRC will enforce the charge.”
A really aggressive and clumsy attack on buy-to-let investors
- Mark Harris, Chief Executive, SPF Private Clients
“The Autumn Statement will be remembered as a really aggressive attack on the buy-to-let investor. The government delivered a staggering kick in the teeth for landlords, with its badly-worded announcement that stamp duty would rise: not a 3% hike but an additional 3%. It is a significant increase and could have a devastating impact on the buy-to-let market.
“A first-time buyer purchasing a £250,000 property after April will pay £2,500 in stamp duty. A landlord, on the other hand, will pay £8,800 in stamp duty on the same property – a massive difference. Move further up the stamp duty price brackets and the costs escalate.
“This announcement, combined with changes in mortgage interest tax relief announced in the Summer Budget, will be a huge deterrent to new landlords and those looking to expand their portfolios. It could have a cooling effect on the housing market. If you are buying as a long-term investment and plan to hold your buy-to-let for 20 years, it is not so bad as you are annualising the 3% over that period of time. It makes it more palatable than speculative investment.
“Unless lenders increase loan-to-values so higher costs can be borrowed, landlords will need to find a significant amount of extra cash. Buy-to-let lenders are already offering higher LTVs – you can now borrow at 80 or even 85% – but the extra risk is reflected in the price.
“Those developments sold off plan to a raft of buy-to-let investors in the UK and overseas will feel the impact as buying costs are pushed up by an additional 3%.
“This is a clumsy attack and doesn’t really deal with the problem – that we need more affordable housing. It is all very well trying to stop wealthy people from buying more property but unless prices actually fall, those on more modest incomes won’t be able to afford to buy them.”
We need quality as well as quantity
- Jane Duncan, President, RIBA
“The Chancellor’s focus on house building is welcome. But urgent action is needed to ensure all homes are well-designed, sustainable places people want to live, making ‘rabbit hutch’ houses a thing of the past. The announcements on new infrastructure and devolution must put quality design at their heart if we are to truly build a better Britain.”
On Housing: “We need well designed homes in the right location, of the right quality and at prices people can afford to buy or rent. While we are pleased that the Government has made more money available to help increase the number of ‘affordable’ homes for first time buyers, older people and those with disabilities, the quality of new homes cannot be allowed to slip off the agenda. The Housing and Planning Bill offers the perfect opportunity to ensure new houses are of excellent quality and will make homes for people now and long into the future.
On Planning: “Local Authority budgets have been slashed to unsustainable levels and we are concerned about the impacts this will have on local communities. Budget cuts have already undermined the ability of Planning Departments’ to make strategic long term judgements about the needs of the communities they serve. This latest round of cuts will make it increasing hard to adequately appraise the quality and impact of proposed development and enable public participation in the design process.”
On the need for Energy efficiency: “Urgent action is needed to resolve the current policy impasse on the future of energy efficiency in the UK. Without more money it is unclear how the government plan to meet their ambition to upgrade all low-income households by 2030. Ahead of the Paris talks, we need to see more leadership on climate issues from the government.”
On School Buildings: “The protection of the schools capital budget is welcome but there is still an enormous challenge that needs to be met. With much of the school stock beyond its shelf life and a need to provide additional places to accommodate two imminent population peaks it is vital that the Government works with the designers and builders of new schools to ensure that high quality and value for money are consistently delivered.”
Some excellent news, but a trick has been missed
- Nicholas Leeming, Chairman, Jackson-Stops & Staff
“Today’s announcements mean nothing unless Government invests simultaneously in placemaking, and it must not be blinkered in its pursuit of new homes if it wants to create sustainable communities at the same time.”
“George Osborne’s pledge to tackle a ‘crisis’ in home ownership today, by doubling the housing budget, is excellent news for the UK market. There has been a devastating lack of supply across the UK for many years while home ownership has been falling as many families have not been able to afford their own home. 400,000 new homes will be built and it is refreshing to see government’s commitment to providing housing for all UK residents, including first time buyers with new starter homes and the launch of the London Help to Buy scheme.
“Homes need to be serviced by reliable infrastructure and today George Osborne also announced he will set aside billions of pounds for large transport infrastructure projects, which will support and enhance the new homes that will be built.
“However, I think George Osborne has missed a trick in not reducing the rate of stamp duty for the highest value homes. The £1.4m+ market has been hit extremely hard as buyers have changed their habits over the past year – those looking to move up the ladder were not prepared to pay a six or seven-figure tax bill, while overseas investors have also been deliberating over whether to buy. The Chancellor could have provided major boost to this sector’s liquidity today by reducing the excessive stamp duty charges on higher valued properties and so encourage more activity in the top end of the market.”
New SDLT rates could make it more difficult for tenants
- Jamie Lester, Head, Haus Properties
“The new 3% increase in stamp duty for buy to let properties and second homes, while good for first time buyers, could actually have quite a negative impact on buy to let investors and subsequently, the rental market. This may ultimately lead to a shortage of good quality properties or an increase in rent, which could make it much more difficult for tenants.”
The antithesis of what we should be expecting from a Tory government
- Richard Bernstone, Director, Aston Chase
“What can I say? Loads of stats and forecasts endorsed by the OBR which suggest we are on course for our ‘generational’ debt to be wiped out by 2020. Council tax to be increased by 2%? While I guess we will all live with that one –although hardly value for money, and in truth a complete swerve on what is actually ‘fairly’ required which is a complete review of council tax bands to see higher value houses paying higher council tax than lower value apartments.
“As for the ‘additional’ 3% SDLT on second homes and/or buy to lets… it is simply the antithesis of what we should be expecting from a Tory government whose values of home ownership and rewarding the most hard working are beginning to sound hollow. Without the threat of a tangible opposition, who are so left wing that if they ever did win, I can see us all wearing one piece suits and doing compulsory exercises in the park between 7am – 8am!
“The promises of more affordable homes to buy and the incentive schemes for first times buyers are always welcome and I just hope that the government will meet its targets in this respect.
“In the last 12 months dare I say, that it is a TORY government that is quashing the dream of people looking to move home, the aspirations of those who would like to buy a second home, and now investors by creating a huge inflation in the cost of home ownership. I guess we will just have to suck it all up and get on with it and no doubt our resilient property market will adjust and adapt over time.”
A punch in the stomach that won’t have a big impact in the long run
- Ian Westerling, Managing Director, Humberts
“The announcement that from April 2016, buy-to-let landlords and second home buyers in England and Wales will have to pay a 3% surcharge on each stamp duty band is a punch in the stomach to these groups but we don’t expect it to dampen transaction numbers in the long run.
“In the short-term we expect to see more activity from these groups as they seek to beat the April deadline for the extra charges. Thereafter, while it’s a wholly unwelcome tax, these buyers who, in our market, are more likely to buy an investment property or a second home as a lifestyle choice rather than as a business decision, are likely to budget for the extra charges rather than be deterred from buying altogether.”
We welcome measures to encourage an increase in regional housing supply
- Adam Phelps, Head of Land and New Homes, Humberts
“The Government’s commitment to address the dire housing shortage in this country is clear and we welcome the measures announced today to encourage an increase in supply. Whilst much is made of housing prices and shortages in our capital, other regions across the UK are feeling the pressure too. The South West is a good example: according to the National Housing Federation,less than two thirds of the homes the region needs each year are being built. The average house price in the South West is now 11.5 times the average local wage and almost 13 times in rural areas.
“We are pleased to see there will be 8,000 specialist homes for older people and people with disabilities. Given the South West is host to the highest proportion of older people than any other region in England and sees the highest rate of migration from other regions in England, we would hope that the geographic distribution of these homes is appropriately allocated.”
A double-edged sword
- Andrew Ellinas, Director, Sandfords
“The planned increase in starter homes for first time buyers will energise the whole of the housing market.
“Increasing affordable housing, particularly in the capital with the launch of a London Help to Buy scheme, will be ‘good news’ for the industry. The positivity of helping more first time buyers to finally get onto the property ladder in London will ricochet into all sectors of the market, and all regions.
“However, George Osborne has produced a double-edged sword with this Autumn Statement because of his new rates of stamp duty coming into play in April 2016. Introducing a 3% stamp duty penalty on buy-to-let properties and second homes will be very detrimental to the whole of the market and will in fact deter investment, and over time deplete available rental stock. Although we await full details on this, for London in particular, considering it’s one of the worlds investment ‘safe havens’, this is an unfair taxation for Mr Osborne to put in place and will come as another blow for buy-to-let landlords.”
London Help to Buy will make a huge difference
- Adrian Anderson, Director, Anderson Harris
“Help to Buy has been hugely successful across the country but hasn’t had such a big impact in the capital because property prices are that much higher. Offering a 40% interest-free loan to London buyers will make a huge difference, enabling many to get on the housing ladder when they simply couldn’t before.
“Take the example of a one-bed flat in Camberwell on the market at £360,000. A 5% deposit works out at £18,000 but if you don’t buy via Help to Buy, you then need to raise a mortgage for the remainder, which requires earnings of circa £85,000, pricing out many buyers. Under London Help to Buy, a 40% interest-free loan would be available, leaving you with a mortgage of just £198,000 to raise. This could be done with an income of £50,000, which is much more achievable in the capital.”
The Government needs to be careful not to put all its eggs in the first-time buyer basket
- Peter Rollings, CEO, Marsh & Parsons
“The London housing market is a law unto itself, and it’s encouraging to see the Government recognise the added affordability pressures at work in the capital, and tackle these with a designated London Help to Buy scheme. With rumours that interest rates might rise earlier than expected, this will inject renewed confidence and should help thousands of prospective homeowners realise their aspirations of getting on the property ladder.
“But the Government needs to be careful not to put all its eggs in the first-time buyer basket. Its narrow focus on frontloading people onto the property ladder, is causing a lot of drag in the rest of the market, and doing nothing to buoy up sinking supply. Last year’s stamp duty changes have marooned the top-end of the property market – and Osborne has missed a trick by not acknowledging this.
“High-end sellers are having to cast off their prices to tempt buyers onboard, and this stagnation is trickling all the way down the chain – creating a logjam that is disrupting the natural flow of the housing market. Homeowners are simply staying put, and the supply of homes for sale above £1m has been left high and dry as a result. The Treasury has a reduced stamp duty take as a result – which they’re now trying to recoup from landlords with the newly announced higher stamp duty on buy-to-let property.
“This additional layer of taxation may deter one-off landlords, but is unlikely to put off the vast swathes of professional investors who enjoy good capital growth and promising yields. This new measure needs to be carefully monitored to ensure it doesn’t have the unintended consequence of limiting lettings supply and therefore pushing up rents. It’s also worth remembering that it doesn’t make prices any more affordable for buyers – it just penalises investors.”
Great promise for housebuilders and potential homeowners
- Kim Vernau, Chief Executive Officer, BLP Insurance
“The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement offers great promise for housebuilders and potential homeowners. Almost £7bn has been designated to help tackle the current housing crisis, with most of the finances put aside to help working families and individuals buy homes, through grants for shared ownership properties.
“Doubling the affordable housing budget when the government is cutting back across departments, sends a signal that the government is taking serious steps to fulfil their promise to address the housing shortage. £2.3bn will directly fund the 200,000 new starter homes announced at the Conservative Party conference in October. Further the £400m allocated to help build 8,000 specialist homes for older people or those with disabilities is recognition of the requirement to support an ageing population. These are both positive commitments.
“Demand for affordable property has been at extremely high levels for some time now. We will need to wait to see the impact this will have on private renters who are burdened with high rents due to the lack of affordable houses on the market.
“Challenges remain which require longer term solutions including addressing the current skills gap and resolving the delays presented by the current planning processes. These challenges are significant and, in the absence of solutions, will continue to have an adverse impact on the speed with which new homes are built.”
The question of who will build these homes has to be asked
- Martin Robinson, Director of Sales, Hunters Property Group
“We welcome the Chancellor’s decision to double the housing budget and to build 400,000 new homes across England, this can only mean good things for the UK’s housing market and the economy as a whole. Home ownership is a key aspiration for the British public and making this ambition more achievable for more people boosts morale which undeniably drives the housing market and will create churn.”
“However, the question of who will build these homes has to be asked. We are consistently hearing that developers do not have the materials, time or skills needed to build homes at the rate the government is demanding. What’s more, will there be a plan in place to subsidise these builders who will undoubtedly be building these homes without the usual margin.”
“We are obviously delighted to see a further injection of cash into the Northern Powerhouse. Having first opened our doors 23 years ago in York this is a topic Hunters feels very passionate about. We have experienced a 30-40% increase in buyers looking to put their money in the north in the last six months and this is partly due to the new transport links and infrastructure planned. It’s important to note this interest is not just coming from first time buyers looking to buy more for their money, but also investors as they realise this part of the country can offer high yields and fantastic returns. As the Chancellor mentioned, the economy is thriving in the North and these latest plans indicate the government’s continued confidence in the region.”
Is the housebuilding industry structurally able to supply the volume of homes needed?
- Greg Hill, Strategy and Change Management Director, Hill Housebuilding
“Extra funding for starter homes is great news for prospective homebuyers, and will undoubtedly help to get more first time buyers and young families on to the housing ladder. Shared ownership properties too are a great way for young people to buy a home without a large deposit. It is certainly the case that the size of deposit required to buy a home acts as a major barrier to first time buyers entering the housing market and these initiatives will go some way to addressing the problem.
“However, it still remains that a crucial issue over the coming years will be whether the UK housing industry is structurally able to supply the volume of homes needed to meet government targets. Planning reform, as well as greater investment in skills and training for careers in construction, are essential if the industry is to deliver the extra homes in the timeframes that Britain needs. We have a rapidly ageing workforce, with many tradesmen and skilled professionals due to retire in the next few years – the industry may struggle to deliver these 400,000 new homes if the gap in capacity is not filled.
“If the industry is to build more homes, we also need to ensure that council planning departments have enough resources to make quick decisions on planning applications. The budget cuts that have also been announced today as part of the spending review could have an impact on local authorities’ ability to make decisions quickly.”
Good stuff on housebuilding, but there is no point in freeing up the bottom end of the market if it is stuck because of the top end
- John Elliott, Managing Director, Millwood Designer Homes
“We welcome the Right-to-Buy pilot scheme. Britain is still a nation of homeowners and it is good to see measures to help more people’s dream of owning a home become reality.
“Help to Buy has been a very effective tool in the market and it is good to hear that more homes will be built with this purpose in mind, particularly in London. However, the Government needs to continue to keep a close watch on this. The potential for more help in the shared ownership market is also extremely welcome and continues to stimulate the overall building of new homes and home ownership.
“I welcomed the news this week from some of the banks about providing mortgages for older people, but the Chancellor needs to take a look at the whole market – as Osborne said himself we need to ‘extend the opportunity to all and provide homes for our families’. There are still extremely Draconian measures in place, which prevent many young folk from getting on the property ladder. Otherwise we are in danger of creating bubbles in the market.
“Overall, we need an even approach to housing with a smooth transactional process the whole way along – we need the entire chain working together. This way the industry can eventually resolve the spiralling price crisis.
“It is good to hear that new rates of stamp duty have been brought in for buy-to-let and second homes, as stamp duty, even at the top end of the market, is extremely important. However, since the Chancellor changed the stamp duty bands this time last year, we have clearly seen the top end of the market killed off, with a marked slowdown in the number of transactions taking place. The Chancellor needed to do something about this today and it is disappointing that he didn’t. It is all very well hitting the £1.5 – 2m+ market, but this is making many people decide against moving, with many choosing to extend their homes instead. This is not helping transactional throughput in the entire market. There is no point in freeing up the bottom end of the market if it is stuck because of the top end – it is much like a toothpaste tube.”
The Chancellor is firmly slamming the door on inward invest
- David Hannah, Principal Consultant, Cornerstone
“Is the Chancellor’s aim to make the UK the least desirable country in the world to invest? I thought we were ‘back open for business’!
“By announcing a higher rate of Stamp Duty Land Tax for purchases of additional residential properties, such as buy to let properties and second homes of 3% above the current rates, the Chancellor is firmly slamming the door on inward invest and forcing those already committed to the UK to contemplate alternatives.
“Property across the UK, especially in London, has heavily relied on international capital to bolster a stagnating sector and has stimulated wider economic growth in the process. Yet today’s announcement is not only compromising the reputation of the UK PLC in the eyes of wealthy foreigners, it is the domestic market that will also be turning their attention elsewhere and taking their money with it.
“With an estimated £1bn already lost as a result of changes to stamp duty last year and movement in the London property market almost slowed to a dangerous level, the Chancellor is coming close to making the UK a highly unattractive proposition for the world’s and the nation’s wealth, which could bring with it a host of unintended consequences.”
The Chancellor will likely be in for a shock when the final year’s tax receipts are counted
- Robert Bartlett, CEO, Chestertons
“We certainly welcome the Chancellor’s renewed focus on the need to build almost half a million extra homes and steps to making home ownership more affordable, but the money set aside for that could well be in jeopardy unless something is done to address this alarming tax shortfall caused by the new stamp duty system that’s also damaging large swathes of the house sales market.
“By ignoring urgent industry calls to review last year’s changes to Stamp Duty, the Chancellor is burying his head in the sand and will likely be in for a shock when the final year’s receipts are counted and he realises how much the new regime is costing the Treasury. The Chancellor said his new second-homes or buy-to-let levy on top of Stamp Duty would raise £1bn for the Exchequer by 2021, but extra revenue is completely obliterated by the losses over that same period.
“The dramatic fall in transactions as a result of the new SDLT regime will have a further unwelcome effect on the wider economy. People buying homes typically spend considerable sums immediately thereafter, be it refurbishment, buying white good, furniture, etc. The loss of VAT receipts alone must be considerable.”
New BtL SDLT rates will reduce the number of homes to rent and almost certainly driving up rents
- Nick Barnes, Head of Research, Chestertons
“The Chancellor’s forecasts over the next four years are very finely balanced, and any shortfall in hoped-for tax revenue will force him to find new savings in the form of spending cuts, or he risks missing his targets on borrowing and deficit reduction – never mind his hope of creating a fiscal surplus. The property industry is calling for him to urgently revisit stamp duty, perhaps revising rates on a regional basis or introducing a cap.
“Furthermore, increasing stamp duty on all buy-to-let properties by 3% is likely to turn many new and existing landlords away from the sector and reduce the number of homes to rent and almost certainly driving up rents for the millions. Higher rents make it even less likely that those on low or modest incomes will ever be able to raise the deposit required to realise their dream of home ownership, despite new Help to Buy ISAs or capital loans for Londoners that were unveiled today – first-time buyers will still need to find around 5% of the total purchase price as their share of the deposit.
“We certainly need more new homes across all price points, to buy and for rent, so the £6.9bn funding announced for house building today is welcome. But we also need many more practical measures to get these homes off the theoretical drawing board and shovels in the ground.
“Developers urgently need more land to build on, especially in London, and an easing of planning restrictions and red tape that are discouraging developers of all sizes from delivering more new homes, so the Chancellor must ensure these measures are introduced without delay. There should also be added incentives and innovative new models for the build-to-rent sector. A separate use-class might tempt investors, while the US model that sees prospective tenants effectively rent ‘off plan’ could also work over here. The public sector should also more frequently develop in ‘joint venture’ with the private sector, sharing risks and costs to get schemes underway, then reaping the benefits when the homes come to market.”
Buyers must also have access to financing to secure these homes
- Henry Knight, Director, Springtide Capital
“First-time buyers have fuelled increased activity in the mortgage market this year; with its commitment to building more starter homes it’s clear the Government is keen to boost the supply of affordable houses and help London buyers with their first deposit – buyers must also have access to financing to secure these homes.
“I fear many first-time buyers in particular will suffer from the negative impacts of an EU Directive that will likely mean mortgages become more difficult to obtain. The new Help-to-Buy ISA is finally coming into effect, but with many lenders still yet to announce their products, there are many uncertainties about how these products will work, what sort of value they will offer and how long the incentives will last. The maximum Government top-up of these ISAs will be set at £3,000, which in London at least will not get you very far.”
We could end up seeing a further squeeze on affordability in an already undersupplied market
- Adrian Leavey, Real Estate Partner, Trowers & Hamlins
“The 3% additional stamp duty on buy-to-let properties announced in today’s Autumn Statement may well limit the number of new private landlords and could also restrict those already in the market from further expanding their portfolios.
“Is the additional stamp duty set to be just a short-term tax yield that will simply be priced into increased rents? If it is, we could end up seeing a further squeeze on affordability in an already undersupplied market.”
The exceptional nature of housing in London is starting to get the attention it deserves
- Andrew Bridges, Managing Director, Stirling Ackroyd
“Today may have no net effect at all on the supply of new homes. This 400,000 figure might simply slip within the UK totals already expected – unless the government announces real plans to ensure more planning approvals are granted overall.
“The crunch is sharpest in London, as recognised by the Chancellor. But again, no answers have been given about where new builds in London will actually go. Help with higher purchase prices is great news, but it’s ultimately a treatment not a cure for a lack of new homes. Everyday Londoners aren’t simply held back by prices, but also by supply.
“Planning can be a nightmare for home builders in London – unless the government intercepts applications and approvals, enough extra new homes will not be completed. In particular, outer boroughs of the city are four times more likely to reject applications for new homes, which puts extra emphasis on inner London to supply tens of thousands of homes a year.
“The exceptional nature of housing in London is starting to get the attention it deserves. ‘London Help to Buy’ will help those buying a property up to £600,000, providing overdue and vital support for people trying to get on the ladder. But a third of London’s postal districts already have higher average prices than this – according to our upcoming London Hubs Tracker – meaning buyers will soon find themselves ineligible for the scheme and squeezed out of many areas. After a short term boost for a year or two, addressing only demand will once again prove insufficient. More homes are the answer, Chancellor – and we need to start planning them right now.”
Disappointing that the Chancellor wasn’t able to spare a thought for buyers further up the market
- Toby Cockcroft, Director, Croft Residential
“The Chancellor’s initiatives to kick start the housing market and help first time buyers get on the property ladder are all positive, however it was disappointing that wasn’t able to spare a thought for buyers further up the market in his Autumn Statement.
“The changes to stamp duty announced last year have injected a huge amount of caution into the market, which has had the effect of significantly slowing down the pace at which properties are changing hands. Being landed with a stamp duty bill of more than £150,000 on top of the price of £2m family home is a very heavy burden to bear for most buyers who, on the whole in this price bracket, are working people stretching their budgets as far as they are able.”
A mixed blessing budget by Houdini George; 7.5/10
- Trevor Abrahmsohn, Director, Glentree Estates
“Well, ‘Houdini George’ seems to have managed to keep our deficit reduction plans on target by the end of the Electoral Term with a small surplus thanks to Tax Receipts that are greater than expected.
“Education and Healthcare were ring-fenced as expected and Defence spending meets our NATO commitment of 2% of GDP as promised. All was well until the subject of Housing was brought up.
“The building of 400,000 new homes by 2020 is a laudable pursuit as is the doubling of the Housing Budget to £2bn towards the building of more homes.
“Even extending the Right-To-Buy scheme is a very good thing for first time buyers who are not able to go to the ‘Bank of Mum & Dad’ for the deposit. The London Help-To-Buy initiative is a positive for the Capital and must be ‘heart warming’ to those on the lowest rung of the ‘property ladder’ who qualify.
“Extending loans to small builders is much needed as is releasing more public land for development of new homes. ‘On it like a bonnet!’
“The closing of the Victorian prisons, built in the 19th Century, is a very good thing since the land can be sold for private and affordable housing and the Receipts will pay for several prisons elsewhere, which will be properly facilitated, giving much needed extra capacity for the Prison Service. The entire area surrounding the Prison will improve and will be further enhanced by the new development in its place. So, it’s a win-win for the government, the Prison Service, the Police and the prisoners as well as the Chancellor in-order to meet his housing target that is dear to his heart.
“There is no question that the Chancellor is trying to help those caught by the housing crisis and assist people to move from renting to purchasing so that they can control their own destiny and shape their future.
“Now lets turn to the dubious elements of the Statement. Adding 3% to Stamp Duty for second homes and Buy-To-Let investments, from April 2016, will be difficult to rationalise when it is analysed, retrospectively, ‘further down the track’. George, do be careful of unintended consequences.
“We all know the ‘devil is in the detail’ but how are they going to police this new initiative? Example: If you would like to move and you purchase another property under the auspices of moving from your first home, and then, you are unable to sell your existing home, but still go ahead with the completion of the new one, you may have to let the new purchase until you sell your existing home. In these circumstances why should you pay the 3% surcharge Stamp Duty when the purchase was not a Buy-To-Let in the ordinary way?
“I can see a real ‘buggers muddle’ coming up in this direction and I am not sure that the Chancellor and his Treasury Team have worked this one out properly.
“Goodness knows what will happen to the markets for country homes after the April watershed since this surcharge will put a big dampener on this. A significant part of the buyers are from London and this additional burden will not help with positive sentiments and could dampen this sector further as it has done with London in the middle to upper markets.
“I can just see that there will be a rush to buy between now and April which will keep the estate agents and conveyancing solicitors busy until then, but beyond, the market will run into the buffers (does anyone remember the ‘bun fight’ up to August 1986 after which the double Tax Relief on mortgages was removed by the then Chancellor Lawson in Margaret Thatcher’s administration at the time?).
“One needs to understand that, in the main, Buy-To-Let investors are not normally oligarchs from the Far East – they are normal UK residents who have become disillusioned with private pensions. Successive governments have pruned these back over time having been made worse by the reforms that the former Chancellor Gordon Brown imposed on pension companies in the form of Tax Credits which served to undermine a number of hitherto previously solvent pension schemes.
“If ‘Middle Class England’ wants to protect their family’s future by supplementing a small private pension with Buy-To-Let investment why make it even harder for them? The Chancellor has taken away Tax Relief at the higher income level and now he is ‘slamming the brakes on’ even further. I’m not sure how clever this is.
“George is using the stamp duty lever now not only to re-distribute wealth but to control the housing market.
“By way of illustration the reforms in last years Autumn Statement (2014) gave a fillip to the lower end of the Housing Market, which was doing well beforehand and did not need further stimulant, and by doing so further disenfranchised the first time buyer whilst, simultaneously, put a big dampener on the Residential Property Market by a draconian Stamp Duty levy of 12%. This has rendered the middle to upper Residential Market, particularly in London, into a premature recession that will have its own consequences and ramifications.
“Here was a perfect opportunity here to reduce the top level of Stamp Duty from say 12% to 8% and justify it by claiming that the Tax Receipts sector were down by 25%. Transactions in this sector are down by, on average, 50% and prices by 10% that will undoubtedly percolate to other sectors of the market.
“It’s a mixed blessing Budget, mostly good, but parts of the housing sector will, I’m afraid, be badly affected. So, it’s seven and a half out of ten for George on this.”
Osborne administers another blow to the property market
- James Greenwood of Stacks Property Search
“Osborne has administered another blow to an already fragile housing market. As we already know, it’s impossible to isolate a specific part of the market without affecting the rest. Break a big toe, and it becomes almost impossible to walk.
“Far from raking in receipts from the last round of stamp duty increases at the upper end of the market, the Government has simply witnessed a sector shutting down. The same will happen to the bottom of the market which is significantly driven by second homes and buy to lets. If the market is cold at both ends, the middle can’t warm up.
“Will there be a rush to buy prior to April? I doubt it. Competitive bidding will simply add a percentage to the price, cancelling any benefit to avoiding the extra 3%. And we are likely to see prices of the kind of property suitable for second homes and buy to lets dropping in price after the changes come into effect in April.
“The rental market will also suffer with less property available, and prices rising.
“We’re yet to see some of the detail, and as it’s revealed affected parties will start to find loopholes. Landlords with small portfolios may club together to form a corporation holding more than 15 properties, thereby exempting themselves from the rules.
“Chains will certainly become weaker. Downsizers regularly buy before they sell, and this tactic will now be too costly to be appealing. Older buyers with non-property owning offspring may use their kids as a temporary haven for their additional property.
“But whatever strategies buyers use, and loopholes some are able to exploit, this move will lead to at least a year of very poor transaction levels in all sectors of the market.”
An incentive for buyers to get off the fence
- Shirley Humphrey, Director at Harrods Estates
“We all welcome the Chancellor’s initiatives to create a level playing-field between owner occupiers and investors and the plans to implement the long overdue new Help to Buy initiative, which will help first time buyers get a foot on the greater London property ladder.
“However the knock-on effects in Prime Central London of the additional SDLT charge for second homes and buy-to-let, just announced, may have unintended consequences where high prices mean most pied-a-terre properties are already in the highest bands.
“There is no doubt many of the international buyers we deal with, who may own several homes in different countries, will still be able to afford the increased cost of buying property in Central London, especially as sellers, rather than purchasers, are likely to share the pain in the form of discounted prices.
“Coming on top of the introduction of the higher SDLT bands in December 2014, today’s announcement should make more sellers realise they cannot continue to ignore the total increase in SDLT costs when negotiating with buyers.
“For buyers, this is an incentive to get off the fence and take advantage of current SDLT rates, before they go up, bringing the UK into line with many other jurisdictions.”