Are the Stamp Duty changes, Elections, Buy-to-Let tax implications and general housing market slow down impacting the Leighton Buzzard and Dunstable housing market ?
We have seen huge rises in both property prices and rents in Luton, Dunstable, Leighton Buzzard and the surrounding areas in the last 18 months. Mostly this has been as a result of the overpriced London market forcing buyers and renters to look outside the capital for more affordable housing. Of course this has pushed prices up locally to a point where some would say it has now become unaffordable and those house hunters will now be looking further up the M1 and A1 to towns such as Northampton and Biggleswade.
Last Friday I took the opportunity to visit 5 or 6 of the local Agents and the message was the same from all of them. There is a short supply of new properties for sale compared to a year ago and offers on the properties they have are not arriving after the first viewings as they were. We are also finding the same with rental properties and this is being reflected in the number of properties both for sale and for rent that you see being reduced in price on the property portals.
Recent figures from HMRC show that the number of transactions nationally in the stamp duty bands fell in April to 83,010 from 107,090 in March. April’s figures cannot be compared on an annual basis as last April the number of transactions slumped after the rush in March 2016 to complete purchases before the new stamp duty rules on second properties started in April 2016. In fact when talking to a property expert and auctioneer recently he pointed out that many of those rushed transactions to save on the extra 3% stamp duty actually cost the buyers more as some agents inflated prices on typical BTL properties and the buyers in their rush were paying over the asking prices. At auction they had also witnessed properties selling for more than expected. If some of those buyers had waited until after the April deadline many properties were reduced in price and they could have made offers below the asking price. The saving made would have been easily more than the extra 3% they were trying to save on stamp duty.
What will this mean for an investor? In a slowing market with prices being reduced and properties taking longer to sell this could be the time to grab a bargain. Homeowners who have found a property to buy might now be in a position where they need to find a buyer for their own property and it is taking longer than it should.
If we look in Dunstable at current properties this one stands out as a potential investment property. Ok Viceroy Court in Dunstable does not have the best of reputations, but for a 1 bedroom flat with a guide price of £95,000 and over 140 years left on the lease it has to be worth a look especially with an expected minimum rental of £600pcm giving you a basic rental yield of 7.5%. This is a town centre location and walking distance for workers in Amazon and the Woodside Industrial Estate so demand for a rental property such as this is high at the right price.
On the 18th April the Prime Minister Theresa May called for a snap general election to take place on the 8th June and the Members of Parliament voted overwhelmingly for the election to go ahead. This could give some leverage for property and landlord groups to put pressure on the government to reconsider changes that have directly affected the property market such as the stamp duty and tax changes.
So where does this leave the UK property market?
Since the election announcement some local Estate Agents I have spoken to have seen continued interest and have seen a marked increase in instructions to sell post Easter, with no evidence as yet from buyers to suggest that any have abandoned their search because of the election announcement.
Historically the run-up to a general election has caused a slowdown in activity in the housing market as the process would usually take many months, but on this occasion with such a short timeframe any impact before the election is expected to be minimal. A recent poll from online estate agents eMoov found that just 18.4 per cent of sellers and 17.5 per cent of buyers said that they would wait and see what the result of the poll is before continuing with a sale or purchase.
After an election there is historically a boost in the number of transactions, as a result of renewed certainty and due to the shortened time span before the poll this is expected to take place sooner rather than later.
Property values would usually drop slightly before an election due to the period of uncertainty as sellers discount to stimulate a sale, but again, due to the short time frame from the announcement to the election this is unlikely to happen with the continued lack of housing supply also keeping the housing market on track. It is well reported that there is a shortage of new housing, so whoever is in power after the election will still have building more homes and supporting the UK property sector at the top of their agenda.
It is expected that the Conservatives will win and a stronger Tory majority would mean less opposition to the government’s Brexit negotiating plans, which would make the country’s future much more predictable and stable for investors. Instability can easily frighten investors or property buyers, however the prospect of five more years of Conservative rule will be seen by many as a real positive and many expect a boost in the UK property market.
Daniel Bourke is the owner of Belvoir Lettings Dunstable and in his previous career in Architecture he was an Associate in a leading London Architectural practice