Estate agents and brokers enjoyed a fruitful period leading up to April 1. Mortgage borrowing reached an eight-year high, 64% up on a year ago, and the typical amount borrowed was £17,000 higher than 2015. Many of the purchasers were eager buy-to-let investors, keen to put their money into homes to be rented out and, therefore, make money through rent and capital increases.
However, the reason for the surge in interest from such investors was based on the change in stamp duty costs, set by Chancellor George Osborne in November’s Autumn statement. The changes came into effect on April 1 and saw an increase in stamp duty for all properties purchased by non-owner occupiers.
Why was the change put in place? There are at least two reasons – the first is an economic one, in that the hike is predicted to raise more than £600m, and £115m of this will be used to help the homeless.
The second reason is a move to try to alleviate the housing crisis that is damaging the prospects of people saving for new homes, with many being snapped up by investors with bigger deposits who could, perhaps, put a more convincing case before lenders. This move, allied to schemes such as Help to Buy and shared ownership, was designed to put off multiple investors and plug the gap with those desperate to get on the property ladder.
How does the hike work? Essentially, every second home will be liable to a 3% increase in stamp duty. That is on top of the current tiered stamp duty applied to all homes costing any more than £125,000, whether they are the residence of the buyer or to be used as an investment vehicle.
So, for example, a home costing £150,000 will be liable to a 3% stamp duty surcharge of £4,500, on top of the tiered 2% stamp duty imposed on any homes which cost between £125,000 and £250,000. That equates to £500 (2% of the £25,000 above £125,000), meaning that stamp duty as a whole comes to £5,000. And of course, as the properties get more expensive there are several higher tiers of stamp duty to consider, all of which add up.
There are many tools like this to calculate stamp duty if you would like to do the sums yourself.
It’s little wonder that so many buyers were attempting to get the purchase of the second home through before April 1, saving them several thousand pounds or tens of thousands. Take a property that costs £750,000, for example – a difference of a few hours could cost the buyer £22,500.
There are a few additional matters to be aware of. If a group of you are buying a home together, the new stamp duty changes apply even if only one of you owns a home already. It doesn’t apply to homes under the value of £40,000, plots of land, caravans or static vans. And anyone who owns more than 15 homes already will have to pay stamp duty on additions – previously it was thought that they may be exempt because it would curb investment in housing projects.
The value of the changes will not be known for months or even years, but the early signs are positive. It might put some investors off, or it might have no effect – if they’ve got enough money to buy a second home, another few thousand might not bother them. It’s a case of wait and see.