Will a stamp duty shake up stir the UK housing market?

 

Stamp duty may be one of the biggest barriers to buying property for many in the UK, but what’s the best way to turn things around?

Property portal reallymoving.com has examined HMRC’s figures for stamp duty (SDLT) receipts received from 240,000 buyers across different property sectors since the start of 2017.

The results show that on average downsizers account for only 7% of monies paid to the Treasury. The definition of a downsizer is someone buying a property for less than the one they are selling.

Research by reallymoving.com highlights that downsizers can free up larger family homes for families and boost transaction levels throughout the property market.

Shifting the costs from buyer to seller

Speculation claims that Boris Johnson may implement radical changes to the existing stamp duty system, shifting the responsibility to the seller. This could have the effect of lowering the buyer’s immediate upfront costs, encouraging people to move, but it would not help downsizers free up the family homes required at the top of the chain.

The new prime minister has said that he is intent on shaking up stamp duty in answer to calls for a tax reduction for properties valued at below £500,000 and reducing the rate payable on £1.5m+ homes from 12% to 7%.

Scrapping stamp duty for downsizers

Rob Houghton, CEO at reallymoving.com, said: “Scrapping stamp duty for downsizers is the simplest and most cost-effective way of freeing up the housing market, allowing older people to move into more suitable homes if they so wish and reducing competition among families for larger homes.

“This move would not spell disaster for the Treasury given that downsizers account for just 7% of stamp duty contributions. When a larger house gets sold it facilitates a chain of transactions.

“I believe the stamp duty revenue forfeited would be more than recovered by boosted transaction levels across the market. On top of which, it would release vast sums of equity by over-65s which has been locked into property for decades with no benefit to the wider economy.”

Time for to open the door for downsizers

Granting downsizers a tax break could be considered a way of stimulating the entire property market, including first-time buyers, creating more fluidity, less competition for property and reducing pressure on house prices.

In recent years, government housing policy has focused mainly on helping first-time buyers through schemes like Help to Buy and First Time Buyer Relief.

The think-tank Policy Exchange estimates that currently there are more than 1.1 million homes owned by single occupants aged 65 plus which have one or two spare bedrooms. To date, the government has not acted to deal with the blockage at this opposite end of the property market.

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