After The Stamp Duty Rush…

Chris Birds of Boxall Brown & Jones takes a look at the property market now the rush to avoid a higher stamp duty is over.

It happens after every major budget change where extra tax costs are involved when buying a home. There is a stampede to complete purchases before the tax axe falls. Most notable was when double tax relieve (MIRAS – Mortgage Interest Relief At Source) was removed on mortgages for unmarried couples in August 1988. This resulted in an average of two years’ worth of transactions being squeezed into a twelve month period – and a sharp rise in house prices. Sadly it also heralded a slump in activity the following year with all the negative knock-on effects to allied areas of the economy. Governments should see these things coming but they never seem to.

We have just witnessed a mini-stampede from buyers of second and buy-to-let homes pushing through their purchases before the April 1st deadline when higher rates of Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) were imposed – a hefty rise when one hadn’t really factored it in before the last budget or even if they had.

Of course everyone in the industry could have anticipated this rush to complete purchases. In this area at least tax avoidance doesn’t appear to have the stigma that many other areas of this now-frowned-upon activity have.

But now comes the aftershock. Once again we can predict the outcome. Those who were serious about buying will have finalised their purchases. That leaves those who were not so serious. This group will take a little time to take stock and get used to the extra cost of buying – while some will decide not to purchase at all. This will leave a vacuum in the market for some months.

Nature and the property market don’t like a vacuum so a number of things will happen. There will be fewer motivated buyers and certain asking prices will come under pressure because of the extra cost of purchase. But the best bit is that for the first time in years first-time buyers should have a window of opportunity when there may not be so much competition from cash and/or professional property buyers. Given the low interest rates this then is the perfect time to enter the market for those with a deposit and an in-principle mortgage in place.

Every cloud has a silver lining. After the last gold rush this is the time for first-time buyers to strike it rich.

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