Britons looking to get on the housing ladder should buy a property right now because prices are dampened due to the government’s newly installed stamp duty tax rates and uncertainty over a potential Brexit.
House price growth fell to 4.7% in May, down from 4.9% in April. The average property price is now £204,368 ($296,000), according to a new report by building society Nationwide on Wednesday.
Nationwide put the property price growth slowdown to the new additional stamp duty tax, which resulted in a rush of purchases in March followed by a slowdown in April.
Stamp duty is a tax placed on buyers when they purchase a property in the UK. It is payable on completion of the property and under the new system, it works out at an extra £93,750 if you’re buying a property at £1.5 million, according to the government’s stamp duty tax calculator. However, if you’re buying a property for £5 million, you’ll be forking out £513,750 just in stamp duty fees.
If you own more than one property, a 3% stamp duty is applied. This new fee came into force in April and is applicable to buy-to-let investors and those who are buying a second home. This 3% fee is on top of the extra cost of a new purchase in April.
So as you can tell, it has put off a lot of buyers post-April 1. Robert Gardner, chief economist at Nationwide, said it had created volatility in the market:
The number of residential property transactions surged to an all-time high in March, some 11% higher than the pre-crisis peak as buyers of second homes sought to avoid the additional tax liabilities.
On top of that, uncertainty over whether Britons will vote to leave the European Union on June 23 in the upcoming referendum, is also causing potential buyers to avoid the market for now. This of course would lead to less demand and therefore also impact prices.
Back in April, massive estate agency LSL Property Services predicted that the referendum would hit demand:
We expect that the strong market activity in quarter one will soften in quarter two, caused in part by some caution among both buyers and sellers in the run-up to the EU Referendum on 23 June.
In the same month, Nic Budden, the CEO of the largest estate agents in London Foxtons said:
We have had a strong start to the year with a record first quarter driven by a number of sales transactions being brought forward before the introduction of the additional stamp duty surcharge on buy-to-let properties.
Nevertheless, we expect the first half of the year to be challenging with a reduced sales pipeline entering into Q2 and the underlying short-term impact on transaction volumes from the uncertainty around the European referendum.
And people are worried about buying a property right now, in case Britain leaves the EU. Chancellor George Osborne recently claimed that a Brexit would result in a house price crash, and that current home-owners would fall into negative equity.
However, on the other side of the argument, property agent David Adams claimed that if a Brexit happened, the pound would fall — making UK property much more attractive to overseas buyers who would stimulate the market, something that happened in 2011.
Chris Grayling of the “Vote Leave” camp has also claimed the fall in immigration in the wake of a Brexit would make it easier for young people to get on the housing ladder, creating a new demographic of property buyers previously priced out of the market.
Despite the new stamp duty and Brexit uncertainty, Nationwide is optimistic prices will pick up over the next few months as people adjust to both outcomes, with Gardner saying:
Healthy labour market conditions and low borrowing costs are expected to underpin a steady increase in housing market activity once stamp duty related volatility has passed, providing the economic recovery remains on track.
It is possible that the recent pattern of strong employment growth, rising real earnings, low borrowing costs and constrained supply will tilt the demand/supply balance in favour of sellers and exert upward pressure on price growth once again in the quarters ahead.
So if you are on the fence about buying a property, now could be the best time to buy before prices rise again.