Stamp duty holiday ends on 31st Dec.

Landlord Expert
By Landlord Expert November 16, 2009 16:29

First-time home buyers have just weeks to complete their deals before the government's temporary stamp duty exemption expires. Househunters seeking properties worth between £125,000 and £175,000, who are midway through the buying process or in the early stages, should urgently chivvy along solicitors, estate agents and vendors to ensure they meet the New Year's Eve deadline.

The exemption was extended in April to 31 December. But it is unlikely to be extended beyond New Year's Eve in the pre-budget report on 9 December.

Figures for September, from the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML), revealed last week that about 6,200 first-time buyer loans were taken out for properties between the old threshold of £125,000 and the temporary ceiling of £175,000. That amounts to 32% of the 19,700 loans to first-time buyers that month.

Separately, the CML adds, an estimated 7,300 home-mover loans were taken out for properties valued between £125,000 and £175,000 – a quarter of the 31,000 loans to this group in the same month. Since the tax concession was introduced in September last year, roughly 132,500 house purchase mortgage transactions – or 27% of the 486,400 taken out – have escaped stamp duty, which they would otherwise have incurred at 1%.

"While the average chain takes six to 12 weeks to complete, first-time buyers are in a strong position to get in before the deadline, as many will be buying new properties and developers will be keen as mustard to get sale proceeds on their books before the end of the calendar year," says Richard Morea of mortgage broker London & Country.

The National Association of Estate Agents and the Association for Residential Letting Agents are calling for an extension to the stamp duty holiday, claiming the tax was unfair for first-time buyers and penalises people investing in buy-to-let portfolios.

However, brokers agree it is unlikely that the exemption will be extended again. Ray Boulger, from mortgage broker John Charcol, says: "It was introduced to prop up the property market and, with prices rising since February, according to the Nationwide house price index, it has done its job."

So if you're planning to buy within this price band, ensure sales are completed before the end of December. According to Rightmove.co.uk, 23.1% of properties nationally are £125,000 to £175,000. East Anglia has the highest proportion (28.6%) at £175,000 or less, and, unsurprisingly, London, the least (10.6%).

What you get for your money will vary wildly. Stretch to £175,000 in central London, and a tiny studio flat in Elephant and Castle can be yours. Hop on a train to Consett in County Durham and you can bag a four-bedroom townhouse for the same money. And many of Birmingham's commuter suburbs, including Erdington, Perry Barr and Acocks Green, offer three-bedroom semi-detached homes up to and around the stamp duty threshold.

Percentage game

The original stamp duty thresholds are expected to return from January. So stamp duty of 1% on properties over £125,000 will apply, along with 3% on those costing more than £250,000 and 4% for those over £500,000.

Of course, a stamp duty saving of £1,750 on a £175,000 property shouldn't be the sole reason for rushing to buy a home. If property prices fall further, and you have scope to slot away more cash for a deposit, then you may pocket chunkier savings by holding off on any purchase.

Nationwide said last month that UK house prices are back at the level of a year ago, following a fifth consecutive month of rises, but said it would be "surprising" to see them continue to increase at the rate recently seen.

However there is no consensus on whether prices will rise further. "Although there are some negative factors affecting the market – such as redundancies continuing to rise – it doesn't alter the fact that the majority of people are still employed, and low interest rates will continue to be the silver lining for the property market," says Boulger. However, Savills' latest forecast predicts that house prices will fall by 6.6% next year.

Outlook optimistic

What is certain is that the lending market is easing up for first-time buyers. Nationwide has announced deals for borrowers with deposits of less than 10% – including a two-year fix at 5.98% with a £495 fee, provided you have, or open, a Flex current account. There is also a range of three-year fixes to pick from. For example, at 90% loan to value (LTV), the best three-year fix is 6.29% from Yorkshire Bank. On a 25-year repayment mortgage of £157,500, the monthly cost is £1,043.

While there have been some improvements in rates for those with smaller deposits, you'll still pay quite a big premium for mortgages in excess of 75% LTV, "so if you can find a bigger deposit you can access a much cheaper deal", says Boulger.

However, Morea adds: "Lenders have cut rates significantly and are keen to explore lending at higher LTVs. With interest rates widely expected to remain low, and some lenders, like Northern Rock, already committed to doubling lending next year, the outlook is cautiously optimistic."

 

Landlord Expert
By Landlord Expert November 16, 2009 16:29

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