Agents query impact of Stamp Duty exemption as first-time buyer sales decline in 2018

The first-time buyer Stamp Duty exemption may not be as effective as the Government claims, according to estate agents.

Data from NAEA Propertymark, based on its surveys of members each month between January and October, shows that the proportion of total sales made to first-time buyers actually fell by one percentage point year-on-year, from 26% on average in 2017 to 25% in 2018.

It could of course just mean that fewer NAEA Propertymarket members are benefiting from first-time buyers using the exemption.

Over the course of 2018, members said demand was lower than last year with an average of 324 house buyers registered per branch, compared to 366 on average throughout 2017.

It is still up 31% compared with 2008.

The number of properties available to buy was at 39 per branch on average in 2018, up from 38 last year but a long way from the 89 recorded a decade ago.

The number of sales agreed per branch throughout the year fell in 2018 from nine on average per month in 2017 to eight this year.

NAEA Propertymark said this figure has been consistent in recent years, although it was at 12 in 2008.

Mark Hayward, chief executive of NAEA Propertymark, said: “2018 has been a busy year for the property market, with the Government launching several consultations to address important issues – most notably to regulate the sector, improve the buying and selling process, and address the issue of leaseholds.

“The housing market has notably slowed, particularly over the last couple of months, which could be a by-product of Brexit uncertainty, as buyers hold off on purchases until the outcome is clear.”

It was an equally gloomy 2018 review from ARLA Propertymark, which said the supply of rental accommodation dipped slightly in 2018 from 189 on average per branch in 2017 to 187 this year, despite reaching an annual high in October of 198 per branch.

The number of buy-to-let (BTL) investors selling their properties increased from an average of three in 2017 to four in 2018, after spiking to five in April and May.

Meanwhile, the number of agents reporting tenants experiencing rent hikes also increased this year, from 25% to 28%.

David Cox, chief executive of ARLA Propertymark, said: “The number of landlords exiting the rental market is rising, and those who aren’t worried about it yet, should be.

“BTL investors have faced a huge amount of legislative change over the last 18 months alone, and as costs rise, they are being driven out of the market and new ones are being deterred from entering.

“The Government is developing a joined-up approach for legislating the private rented sector, but until this has been put into action and the market is made more attractive for landlords, rents will continue to rise, competition will intensify, and tenants will continue to suffer.”

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