Think tank, the Adam Smith Institute, believes that Stamp Duty Land Tax, to give stamp duty its full name, should be scrapped. Amongst many reasons why they think it should be abolished is the belief that its existence prevents older people from downsizing.

The prospect of paying stamp duty on a smaller home acts as a disincentive. For example, when buying a retirement property priced at £250,000, stamp duty adds another £2,500 to the cost of moving home, along with solicitor’s fees, surveys, valuations and removal costs. (Figures differ under Land and Buildings Transaction Tax in Scotland and Land Transaction Tax in Wales.)

Those looking to raise cash to bolster retirement income are increasingly turning to equity release. It represents a way of accessing some of the value tied up in a property that avoids all the costs and upheaval of downsizing to a smaller property. With equity release, although there are set-up fees, most of the costs are delayed until you die or go into permanent residential care.

It’s important to remember that equity release means in most cases that the loan you take out against the equity tied up in your property will increase over time as interest is rolled up. When you die, the property will be sold, and the loan repaid. Although interest rates on equity release plans are higher than on a conventional mortgage, with average interest rates having fallen over the last few years, equity release has become more attractive to many.

It is however important to discuss equity release with your family as it will have an impact on the amount that they are likely to inherit.

Interest-only Mortgages

Equity release is increasingly coming to the aid of those approaching retirement with an interest-only mortgage where they do not have the funds to pay back the capital on maturity and their retirement income may not cover ongoing interest costs. Whilst they may not have paid off any capital, they have probably built up equity, offering them a lifeline that allows them to stay on in their home.

Think carefully before securing other debts against your home. Equity released from your home will be secured against it. Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments.

This can be a difficult question to answer as there are many factors, economic and political, that can affect the UK housing market. As many people will be aware, the protracted negotiations over Brexit have recently taken their toll, particularly on the London property market, as uncertainties affecting the future prospects of European workers coming to the capital have yet to be resolved.

Spring kick-starts the market

The time of the year can play a part in whether your property sells quickly. Traditionally, estate agents report that once the clocks go forward in spring, housing demand picks up. Improving weather and in-bloom gardens can all help a property look its best. Families with school-age children who are moving into a new area often choose this time to start house hunting, hoping to tie in their move with school terms.

The peak holiday months of July and August are quiet months for property sales. However, once the children go back to school in September, the housing market tends to pick up, in the hope that the move can be completed in time to celebrate Christmas in a new home. Although December is traditionally slow, January sees renewed activity as people start making their plans for the year ahead.

Getting the timing right

Whilst seasonal peaks and troughs can be universal, it always makes sense to look at what’s happening in your local market before contemplating a sale. Taking a look at the various online sites that show what comparable properties have been sold for, rather than the price they were initially advertised at, will help ensure you get your asking price right. This can be key in getting a quick sale.

Although the housing market has slowed, due in part to the widespread uncertainties surrounding Brexit, there is some good news. The number of first-time property purchases made in 2018 reached 372,100, up by 3% on the 2017 figure. This means that for the first time since 1995, those making their first property purchase represent a bigger share of the market numerically than those making a second or subsequent move (51% to 49%)1.

Stamp Duty cuts

First-time buyers found their property-owning plans boosted by the Chancellor’s cut in Stamp Duty announced in November 2017. This means that if they spend £300,000 or less on a property, they won’t pay Stamp Duty. If they buy a more expensive property, the first £300,000 will be free of Stamp Duty, provided that the property’s price is £500,000 or less. In Scotland, firsttime buyers enjoy Land and Buildings Transaction Tax relief that saves them up to £600, whilst in Wales they get no special Land Transaction Tax concessions.

Help to Buy set to continue

The government’s Help to Buy scheme is playing a major role in helping first-timers realise their property goals. Under the scheme, first-time buyers and second-steppers are offered a loan of up to 20% of the price to buy a new-build property of up to £600,000. A London-only version of the scheme provides 40% equity loans.

The 2018 Budget contained details of how the Help to Buy scheme is to operate in the future. Until 2021, anyone taking advantage of a Help to Buy equity loan to boost their purchasing power, can buy a property worth up to £600,000. Thereafter, and for a maximum of two years, only first-time buyers will be eligible to buy through the scheme, and the maximum property values will be restricted, with differing figures in place around the country to reflect regional house price variations.

Time to make your move?

If you’re thinking of making 2019 the year you buy your first home, it makes sense to get in touch. We can help you make your dream a reality.

As a mortgage is secured against your home or property, it could be repossessed if you do not keep up mortgage repayments.

1Lloyds, 2019

Under its Help to Buy scheme, the Government offers first-time buyers and second-steppers a loan of up to 20% of the price to buy a new-build property of up to £600,000. A London-only version of the scheme provides 40% equity loans.

Changes announced in the Budget

The 2018 Budget contained details of how the Government’s Help to Buy scheme is to operate in the future. Until 2021, anyone taking advantage of a Help to Buy equity loan to boost their purchasing power can buy a property worth up to £600,000. Thereafter, and for a maximum of two years, only first-time buyers will be eligible to buy through the scheme, and the maximum property values will be restricted, with differing figures in place around the country.

London limits

After 2021, first-time buyers in London will still be able to buy properties up to the value of £600,000 using the scheme; all other regions will see the implementation of a cap on maximum prices. This means that, for instance, the maximum price for an eligible property in Yorkshire and Humberside will be £228,100, and in the south east the figure will be set at £437,600.

No further schemes announced

The Budget document reveals that the scheme will not be extended beyond 2023. It said: “The Government does not intend to introduce a further Help to Buy: Equity Loan scheme after March 2023“.

The announcement provided welcome news for housebuilders planning future development. It also provides valuable peace of mind to potential first-time buyers who are currently saving for a deposit that they still have time to benefit under the scheme and see their home purchase plans become reality.

Shared ownership involves buying a share in a property and renting the rest. It’s a cost-effective way for first-time buyers to get a toehold on the property ladder.

The Chancellor’s 2018 Budget included plans to correct an anomaly from his previous Budget by cutting stamp duty for first-time buyers of shared ownership properties worth up to £500,000.

And there was more good news. The Chancellor applied the relief retrospectively from his 2017 Budget to shared ownership properties bought in England and Northern Ireland. Searching Stamp Duty Land Tax on gives details of how to contact HMRC if you’re entitled to a refund.

With the Government having pledged to build 300,000 new homes a year in England by 2025, there’s welcome news concerning the number of new homes registered in the third quarter of 2018.

Builders register homes expected to be built in the coming months that are to be covered by the National House Building Council (NHBC) ten-year warranty scheme; these registrations account for about 80% of new homes. NHBC figures show that 43,578 homes were registered between July and September 2018, 15% higher than in the same period in 2017, and the highest number in any quarter since 2007. Of these homes, 10,058 were affordable homes, a year-on-year increase of 12%.

Registrations were up in the rental sector too. Housing associations and overseas investors active in the London rental market helped increase year-onyear registrations in the capital by 141%.

Total new housing supply also continues to increase in Scotland, up 4% in 2017- 18 (19,428 new housing units). This represents the fifth consecutive increase in total housing supply, the highest annual figure since 2008-09.

Clearly, good progress is being made, although many in the construction industry are concerned about the likely effects of Brexit.

Despite signs that the housing market is slowing down, especially in London, house prices have remained high due to the shortage of supply. This has meant that affordability has continued to be a major issue, especially in the south of the country.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that first-time buyers in London need to spend 13 times their earnings (based on full-time median gross salary) to get on the housing ladder, whilst in the North East the figure is five-and-a-half times earnings.

One in seven will be paying their mortgage at 70

With more people getting onto the housing ladder later in life, many homeowners are facing the prospect of paying their mortgage out of their retirement income or continuing to work into their old age. Recent research indicates than one in seven will still be paying their mortgage at the age of 703.

With more lenders providing a greater choice of later life mortgages, older borrowers could find that there is a better mortgage option available to them, so taking professional advice makes sense.


As a mortgage is secured against your home or property, it could be repossessed if you do not keep up mortgage repayments

Over the last ten years, the average UK house price has risen 10% from August 2007, to £219,266 in July 2017. The average deposit has increased too, from £68,663 in 2012 to £96,109 in 2017. However, after several years of continued growth, the UK property market is now showing signs of slowing down.

The housing market is notoriously sensitive to economic confidence, and many experts are predicting that against the backdrop of the ongoing Brexit negotiations, conditions for households could remain challenging for the next couple of years. Inflation is likely to eat into budgets and interest rates may have to rise. This may well signal a period of lower house price growth.

However, the post-Brexit house price crash that many commentators predicted, including the International Monetary Fund, has so far failed to materialise.

Slowdown in growth

Over the last few months, the number of families moving has started to slow, leaving fewer properties available for first-time buyers, according to figures from Lloyds. Its data shows movers for the first six months of 2017 at 171,300, down 2% on the first half figures for 2016.

The UK’s biggest mortgage lender, Halifax, reported in August that annual house price growth had slowed to its lowest rate in four years, and the official surveyors’ body, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, reported that market activity was back to levels last seen in 2011.

London has seen the biggest falls. Many had assumed that with a lower pound, more foreign buyers would have been active in the market, however uncertainty over Brexit has caused European buyers to stay away. Another factor in the capital’s property slowdown is the lack of landlords entering the buy-to-let market, due largely to the introduction of the new tax rules on mortgage interest and increased stamp duty.

Going up and down

With estate agents continuing to report a lack of new stock coming onto the market, particularly family homes, more and more homeowners are considering their options. Some choose to extend upwards into loft space, while others are going underground and opting for basement extensions. Research from the Halifax that analysed planning data for England, Scotland and Wales for January 2012 to December 2016 showed planning applications for basements had risen by 183%.

The flatter trend in price growth could be a silver lining for those who have been kept out of the housing market by the seemingly relentless rise in prices, and means that more first-time buyers are able at last to find a home they can afford to live in.

The information within the article is for information purposes only and is purely market commentary and does not constitute individual advice.

With property prices stabilising across the UK and falling in London, what steps can you take to ensure you get a good price if you’re planning to sell your home?

With four-fifths of properties now sold below asking price1, experts agree that being realistic about price can be key to getting a sale. Over-pricing can lead to low levels of interest in your property, whereas offering your home for sale at a realistic figure is likely to entice more potential buyers and can lead to an increase in the amount offered. If several buyers are really keen, they may be prepared to put in bids over the asking price to secure their purchase.

Creating the right image

Before getting those all-important photographs taken, it really pays to have a good declutter and a thorough clean. It’s particularly important that bathrooms and kitchens look pristine and tidy. Grubby worktops, baths and taps that have seen better days, can be very off-putting to potential buyers.

Simple steps like making sure the property is well-aired, last night’s cooking smells aren’t lingering and there’s no washing-up sitting in the sink will all help to create the right atmosphere.

Light rooms are a big attraction, so if you have small rooms that are painted in dark colours, it might be worth giving them a makeover in more neutral shades that won’t put off viewers.

Outside spaces

Kerb appeal is as important as the experts claim. Many prospective buyers tour the neighbourhood before arranging a viewing, so making sure that the front of your house is presentable, especially the area around the front door, really can help your property get noticed.

Gardens can be an attractive feature for growing families, so making sure that you include pictures of your outside space in your sales particulars is important. Keeping lawns cut, flowerbeds tidy and children’s toys neatly stowed away will all help ensure you create the right impression.

Of course, some buyers are looking for a property they can renovate, so may not be deterred by a lack of aesthetic appeal.

1NAEA Propertymark, March 2018

Once upon a time, homeowners moved four times after their first purchase; now it’s more like twice. New evidence suggests that in England and Wales, many more of us are putting down roots and choosing to stay in our current homes for longer.

Research1 carried out by Dr Ian Shuttleworth of Queen’s University Belfast points to a major cultural change, and highlights that at least a million fewer people moved between 2001 and 2011 compared with 1971 to 1981.

Staying put and renovating

This trend is borne out by recent research from insurer Hiscox2. They have identified a five-fold increase in the number of homeowners who have chosen to renovate their existing home in the last five years. The choice to renovate rather than move is likely to be influenced by a range of factors such as the continued rise in house prices in some regions, predicted rises in interest rates, the additional costs such as stamp duty, the lack of suitable property on the market, tighter mortgage lending criteria and the economic uncertainty that arose after Brexit. In addition, in some parts of the country property prices have hardly moved, meaning that families can find themselves held back because they have made little or no profit on their existing home.

In 2013, the research2 showed that just 3% of homeowners chose to improve as an alternative to moving, but five years later, this figure has risen to 15%. Local council figures show that requests for planning permission have risen by 29% in the last ten years.

Outwards and downwards

People are increasingly looking to adapt their property to meet their changing needs, with an extra bedroom high on the agenda of many families. Unsurprisingly, loft extensions head the list of alterations having increased the most, up by 114%. As reports in the media have highlighted, digging out basements to create extra accommodation is becoming increasingly popular, especially in fashionable parts of London.

1Queen’s University Belfast, Fewer people moved house in the ‘00s than the ‘70s, 2018

2Hiscox, Renovations and Extensions Report, 2018