The Government’s mish-mash of emergency housing policies is making heads spin.
Buyers are in a panic as they try to sort out when they should move, what method they should use for their purchase and how much they will save over what time span.
Combined with understaffing at estate agents, the confusion has thrown the summer property market into turmoil. Pent-up demand, which swelled during lockdown, was unleashed when the market reopened three months ago. On top of that, home buyers are rushing to take advantage of Chancellor Rushi Sunak’s stamp duty holiday, introduced last month.
Knight Frank reports the number of new buyers registering was up 80 per cent last week on the same time last year, while Dominic Agace, boss of Winkworth, claims the tax break has “turbo-charged” sales activity. “It has been our busiest July in at least five years,” he says.
Stoking the property market has long been a strategy to stimulate a failing economy.
However, there are fears that the short-termism of an eight-month stamp duty holiday and the measly two-month extension to Help to Buy, are fuelling a micro boom ahead of a collapse when the jobs furlough scheme ends in autumn.
Instead of a helpful long-term strategy, the measures are being seen as a quick fix that won’t help young home buyers in the long run — especially those bringing up families, whose ability to put down roots could reinvigorate the capital.
Professor Yolande Barnes of The Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London, says: “The stamp duty holiday is designed just to get people buying homes and spending money on associated industries such as interior design, furniture and removals. Its effect will be short-lived.”
Oliver Knight, an analyst at Knight Frank, agrees this temporary market is “busy but not necessarily strong”.
In this two-part series, Homes & Property analyses the frantic summer market, highlights looming deadlines and helps guide the buyer through this small window of opportunity.
Stamp duty holiday? More like a mini break
At the Chancellor’s emergency summer Budget on July 8, he announced a stamp duty “holiday”. No stamp duty will be paid on any property costing below £500,000, with immediate effect.
Above the £500,000 threshold this equates to a £15,000 saving on purchases all the way up the ladder. But to take advantage buyers must get their offer in and accepted before March 31 next year.
“The number of offers accepted in the week ending August 1 was 132per cent higher than the five-year average,” says Oliver Knight. “Given how long each transaction takes, these sales will feed through into the autumn market. It’s next year we will see the crunch point.”
New homes are also for sale at Bluenote Apartments in Hayes, west London, from £425,000. Contact Bellway on 020 8131 8485.
The stamp duty break applies to second-hand homes, too. A two-bedroom flat in a period semi in Streatham is on sale through Marsh & Parsons for £500,000.
An offer accepted below this price will mean no stamp duty bill for the buyer. Call 020 8671 0171. For those buying above £500,000, check out Knight Frank’s updated stamp duty calculator at knightfrank.co.uk/stamp-duty-calculator for guidance.
The end of Help to Buy
Help to Buy is a crisis policy. The Government’s shared equity scheme was introduced in 2013 to encourage builders to keep delivering new homes after the global banking collapse, and to assist would-be homeowners.
Under the scheme the state lends up to 40 per cent of the value of a new-build property in London priced at up to £600,000, while the bank lends 55 per cent and the buyer finds the five per cent deposit.
Due to be phased out from next year, Help to Buy grew in popularity during lockdown as high street lenders withdrew their high loan-to-value products designed for first-time buyers. Arguably, it will get even more important as the pandemic plays out.
House-builders were due to complete new homes available for sale under the scheme until the end of December but this has now been extended to February 28 next year, to account for Covid-related construction delays.
Buyers will still need legally to complete their purchase by the end of next March to qualify for an equity loan on their home. Mark Evans of developer London Square says: “We are disappointed the extension isn’t for longer than two months.
“The past few months have been challenging and giving them more time would have been helpful.”
Last week the Government announced its intention to replace Help to Buy with First Homes, an affordable housing scheme, whereby local residents can buy designated homes in their area with a 30, 40 or 50 per cent discount, passed on when the property is sold.
For further information on Help to Buy go to the HomeOwners Alliance advice website.
A home of our own feels so special
This summer has seen a wave of people moving out of London in search of more space.
Chantelle, 26, and 28-year-old Jemel have bought at Buckler’s Park in Crowthorne, Berkshire, using Help to Buy.
“It feels really special to have something to make our own,” says Chantelle.
There are one- to five-bedroom homes available at the Legal & General site next to a country park. Three- bedroom semi-detached family houses are priced from £475,000. Call 01344 981 535.
Last chance for second steppers
After March, Help to Buy will be available only to first-time buyers, leaving many second steppers unable to upsize from their starter pad to a family home — and creating a sticking point in the market.
It’s also a blow to the capital, as families emerge from lockdown and leave London for more green space and homes with gardens.
Barratt Homes and Transport for London have launched three-bedroom family-size apartments at their new Black Horse View development in Walthamstow.
Prices start from £315,000 for a one-bedroom flat and all units come with a balcony and access to communal gardens. Call 0330 057 6666.
Three-bedroom homes are also available at Tilbury Lodge in South Croydon for £540,000, below the London Help to Buy cap. Call 020 8681 6744.
Further afield, four-bedroom houses are for sale for £475,000 at Base in Harlow, just the other side of Epping, by Countryside. Visit basenewhall.co.uk.
Downsizers will lose out
Downsizers will not be able to access Help to Buy after next March. This could slow the number of much-needed family homes coming to the market.
One-bedroom flats designed for downsizers are still available at Trent Park in Enfield and will be completed within the new time frame.
The Grade II-listed mansion and orangery have been restored, with new homes built in the grounds.
There will be a residents club, open-air pool, gym and tennis courts. Prices start from £565,000. Call Berkeley Homes on 020 3797 8033.
With fewer workers on site because of social distancing, smaller schemes are more likely to be completed on time. Two-bedroom homes are available at Faithful Court in Upper Norwood starting from £455,000. Call Brick by Brick on 020 3034 2565.
A drive to long-term change
The emergency policy changes come as the controversial Government planning reform is announced, with its pledge to “Build, Build, Build.”
The recent relaxation of planning regulations includes allowing landlords to flip their vacant high street properties into homes. However, some experts fear this will simply release poor-quality homes on to the market and add to the confusion.
“We will come out of this crisis with a dearth of decent homes for low- to middle-income Londoners,” says Yolande Barnes. “If Covid teaches us anything [about housing], we must plan economically, environmentally and socially sustainable neighbourhoods instead of fixating on the number of individual homes delivered.”