With less than a month to go until the Autumn 2017 Budget, the rumour mill has already started speculating about what may be announced. Among them is a possible stamp duty cut for first-time buyers, a move designed to help those in their twenties and thirties get on the ladder and restore ‘intergenerational fairness’ to the system. The tax is certainly an additional obstacle at the bottom of the market, and Land Registry figures show it amounts to a bill of approximately £11,500 for the average first-time buyer in London (assuming an average starter-property price in the capital as around £400,500). Addressing some of the challenges faced by first-time buyers is certainly welcome, but the ongoing issue is a lack of housing supply against growing demand. This competition, in turn, is pushing up prices, so the risk is that a stamp duty cut will fuel this even further.
Meanwhile, it’s forecast that investment in PRS could grow to £70 billion by 2022 as the sector becomes a major asset class, ensuring quality and flexibility for renters as they save for their first deposit. At MIPIM UK last week, L&G announced plans to increase its £1bn exposure to build to rent relative to its commitments to student accommodation, social housing and homes for sale as it sees more growth in this sector. It’s been said that the increase in renting is due to people making a lifestyle decision to remain as tenants; those renting today could be students, young professionals, families or those in retirement. However, the role that rising house prices has in this shift can’t be denied. Yes, for some it may be the perfect choice and comes with the added benefits of freedom, less risk and less upfront costs, but ultimately we’d have more control over prices and level out the playing field if more homes were available to sell.
If the stamp duty cut is announced next month, all eyes will be on the figures: in the short-term, how much of a cut will it be, but in the long-term, construction targets and house price indices. Sajid Javid has already announced that the Government intends to borrow more in order to invest in new homes, but for now, the rental sector is sure to continue on its upward trajectory.