The Budget – stealth taxes and small print

The budget on Monday seemed quite a low key affair for the housing market, with the main announcements being about personal tax and the NHS – coupled with a long list of small items that were instantly forgettable.

However, as usual with modern day politicians, the devil is usually in the detail – hidden away in the small print.  The budget this year was no exception.

Landlords – those ‘accidental’ landlords who let out their former main homes could be impacted by capital gains tax changes announced by the Chancellor, taking effect from April 2020.  Currently, lettings relief can reduce the capital gains tax on the sale of a property which has been used as a landlord’s main home in the past, but which has since been let out.

This ‘letting relief’ is being restricted, so that it only applies when the owner of the property is in shared occupancy with the tenant – which basically doesn’t usually happen unless the landlord takes in a lodger.

On top of this, the Chancellor announced that the capital gains tax exemption on the final period that an accidental landlord owns a former home before selling it will also be reduced from 18 months to nine months. Yet another attack on the private landlord who is clearly seen as an easy political target.

Stamp Duty – The Chancellor also announced that there will be a consultation in January 2019 on a stamp duty surcharge of 1% for non-residents buying residential property in England and Northern Ireland.  In a further tweak to the rules, there will be an extension of first-time buyers’ stamp duty relief to shared ownership properties worth up to £500,000 in England and Northern Ireland.

The relief for shared ownership buyers will be backdated to November 2017 so recent buyers can claim a refund.  This follows the 2017 Autumn Budget announcement that first-time buyers would pay no stamp duty tax on properties up to £300,000, and those buying homes between £300,000 and £500,000 would get a discount.

Help to Buy – the current scheme is being extended for another 2 years – it was originally due to end in April 2021.  The extended scheme will only be available to first time buyers, buying newly built homes and with regional price caps on qualifying property.

Planning – yet another consultation will be getting underway – this time looking at reforms to make it easier to build above commercial premises and to make it easier to get consent to demolish commercial property and replacing them with new homes.

So in our opinion, overall not a particularly inspiring set of measures and unlikely to fundamentally change anything.

The Result? – We predict a year of fairly static house prices ahead – with most sensible buyers getting on with life and getting on with their planned moves, despite Brexit, politicians and the EU.  Remember that attractive, well located and realistically priced property always finds a buyer.

It also seems likely that mortgage lenders will be keen to attract business with some well priced mortgage deals for people moving house as well as remortgaging.