How the changes in stamp duty could affect landlords in 2017
There’s an obvious and pressing need for a shake-up in the housing market.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years you cannot have failed to notice that we are in the midst of a housing crisis, with prices rocketing to a point where first-time buyers simply cannot get onto the first rung of the ladder. The average price of a current property for first time buyers in September was £161,912.
So what could be done? Those who own more than one home are in a strong position if they decide to rent the home out, but the more property landlords take for renting out, the less that is left for everyone else, leading to an inevitable price rise.
When George Osborne was chancellor – which already seems a political lifetime ago – he attempted to balance out the market somewhat by adjusting the stamp duty land tax in two tranches. The first change ended the ‘slab’ tax and aimed to deliver savings for 98% of buyers. The replacement was a graduated tax which was levied on the amount over a given value rather than the entire value of the home. The signs so far are mixed; while some are saving, others buying homes at the top end of the market seem to have gained cold feet, and estimates suggest that sales of homes worth more than £5m have plummeted.
Osborne’s changes, which are detailed here, went further by introducing an additional tax for those buying second homes from April 2016. Following from his plans to change tax arrangements to mortgage tax relief in 2017 which will stop landlords from deducting mortgage interest from their tax bill, Osborne imposed an additional 3% tax on people buying second properties, alongside the changes for any property purchases described above.
The effects were dramatic. Initial research by estate agency Haart said that sales in November were down a whopping 64% compared to the same period last year; 6,000, compared to 10-11,000 in 2015. So the homes in the multi-million-pound bracket in London, which would once have been seen as a money-making investment, are now even pricing investors out of the market.
Interestingly, buy-to-let homeowners are buying in friend’s or family names, or setting up companies for their portfolios, in a bid to offset the ramifications from the tax overhaul to be introduced in April. A limited company could be unaffected by the changes, which were detailed in The Week, although some experts remain sceptical. And for those landlords who do suffer, there does seem to be one obvious solution – raising rent.
The property market could then see people unable to rent or gain a mortgage, leading to longer periods of staying with parents or increased volumes of renters sharing with friends. The former would see landlords with more empty homes, which would presumably force rents down or see them put back on the market in the next 2-3 years – perhaps to the benefit of first time buyers (although of course there is a budget in 2017 that could change things). In that way, Osborne’s original plan might work, but perhaps not in 2017.