Stamp duty surcharge and the property market

So, it is April and the dust has started to settle from a very busy time in the rush to get property transactions completed by the end of March, before the introduction of George Osbourne’s controversial 3% stamp duty surcharge that started on April 1.  The last two weeks were very busy for us agents, working long hours to chase and see through transactions.  Lawyers became almost impossible to contact, as they were ‘swamped with transactions’.  A lot of these transactions were by to let investors trying to complete a purchase within the deadline.

Also, the extra tax dragged in a number of other transactions.  Buyers woke up a month before the deadline and realised that if they owned another property, they had to complete the transaction before April 1 or pay a big tax hike.  Many transactions had to be accelerated to fit the deadline.

Other transactions included parents jointly buying with children to support their first purchase, where they faced a bigger big after the 1st April.

We are starting to see the fall out of some of these transactions, we had a client who said that he would have his converted apartments ready by April 1, but they weren’t, so he is having to adjust the price to cover buyers increased price.  We have also heard about another builder, not one of ours, who rushed through and completed flats, which weren’t really ready, but the buyers agreed to take them on, on the promise that they would be ‘snagged’ and it seems to be taking a very long time for the faults and issues to be sorted.  No doubt the buyers had to weigh up whether it is better to wait until their new apartment was ready, or alternatively complete and save the extra tax.  Most decided upon the latter option.  As often is the way, once the builder has got the money, it is much more difficult to get him back to ‘finish the job’.

Just as a final consequence, if you were hoping to move house and get a transaction completed during this time, many solicitors just disappeared off the communications map.  They were so busy they just did not have the time, and were not able to prioritise their main stream non second home buyers because there other clients were ‘screaming at them’ to ensure that they hit the deadline.

So where does that leave us in April.  I guess because of the tax change, it has had the effect of pushing through quite a lot of transactions, which might as well have drifted in to April, or indeed in to May.  We are experiencing a slower and less ‘driven’ market.  The effect of the stamp duty change tails off and many buyers are taking a somewhat cautious view to see what happens after the EU vote.

This is traditionally a busy prime time, and rather like last year was held back due to the general election.  There are still investors looking to buy, as you can imagine being more selective and cautious about what they would choose to purchase.

Is there a lot of buy to let investors who have decided to sell up and cash their money in?  The answer is no.  There is no sign that that is taking place.  Most are in for the long term, and their investment is providing a much better turn on capital than money sitting in the bank, or being risked on a volatile stock market.  Whilst we may not see house prices driving forward strongly, house prices have indicated a healthy start to this year, and there is no doubt in the lower to medium price range that there is a strong demand from buyers to purchase and often insufficient choice of property available.

Will we see more first time buyers returning to the market – I hope so, although many have to have assistance to get their foot on the property ladder, especially in the wealthy and successful areas of The Chilterns and South Oxfordshire.

The one bit of good news on the ‘forward horizon’ for new homes, is that throughout our region land is being zoned and allocated for future residential housing, which I very much hope will flow through quickly to provide more options and homes to be sold.  Our land and new homes department is very busy and we have many sites in the ‘pipeline’ to deliver 100 of homes to be sold in the area.  For those looking to move up the ladder to find a larger home, or for somebody cashing in moving down, this is a key time to start to look to sell.  We have a healthy, relatively well balanced market, and the key ingredient is, if you are going to sell, to choose an agent who provides an accurate, sensible advice and above all, will package and market your property to a high standard, to put to the marketplace with the main leading national property portals.  Top quality presentation is fundamental to generate early interest, numerous viewings, competition and bids for a property.  That way, we as the agent, is making the investment, can deliver to our owner, the confidence of an early sale.

At Tim Russ & Company we will do all we can to get your home sold for the best possible price.

We have been providing estate and letting agency services in Buckinghamshire, the Chilterns and Oxfordshire for over 20 years, developing the knowledge and experience we need to make the sales process as easy and stress free as possible.

If you would like to know how much your property is worth in the current marketplace, check out our instant online sales valuation.