The Daily Telegraph

How cutting stamp duty could solve nation’s house crisis

- By Melissa Lawford

Liz Truss’s plans to cut stamp duty could unlock the housing crisis and boost sales despite soaring mortgage bills, experts said. The Government is reportedly planning to announce a cut to the property transactio­n tax in the minibudget tomorrow, as part of Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s brief to boost growth.

Tom Clougherty, of the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS), a think tank, said the move would boost house sales, enable a more efficient use of the country’s housing stock by removing a key barrier to downsizing, and increase housebuild­ing long-term.

“It would be a watershed moment for the housing market. It will liberate supply and boost productivi­ty,” Clougherty said.

Research by the CPS found that housebuild­ing rates respond directly to transactio­n levels, with developers historical­ly building one home for every 8.5 transactio­ns.

This is because housebuild­ers increase their output when they are more confident that they will be able to sell homes quickly.

“The Government could cut stamp duty and the tax revenue wouldn’t necessaril­y fall, because it will encourage more moves and in turn more housebuild­ing,” Clougherty said.

There is so far no detail on what form the stamp duty cut will take, but analysts expect a permanent rise in the nil-rate band. Matthew Lesh, of the Institute of Economic Affairs, a think tank, said Truss could increase the nil-rate band to £500,000 or even £1m.

He said: “If they are going to do something, I would expect something substantia­l with the nil-rate threshold rather than fiddling with exemptions.”

The move would encourage large numbers of older homeowners to move and free up family homes for younger buyers, Lesh added.

He said: “Stamp duty contribute­s to a massive misallocat­ion of housing. It disincenti­vises downsizing because of the moving costs, which means that other people can’t upsize.”

But analysts warned that reducing’ moving costs could bring unsustaina­ble house price inflation in the short term. Andrew Wishart, of Capital Economics, said: “By offsetting the rising cost of mortgages, a stamp duty holiday could extend the house price boom by a few months, but it would take prices to a level where a correction is inevitable.”

A stamp duty cut would fire up demand at a time when the housing market is looking increasing­ly shaky. In August, new buyer inquiries plunged at the fastest rate recorded since the housing market was shut down during spring 2020, according to the Royal Institutio­n of Chartered Surveyors.

Demand is likely to fall even further, following the Bank of England’s anticipate­d interest rate rise today, which will further inflate already soaring mortgage costs. Capital Economics and HSBC have forecast national house price falls of around 7pc.

Richard Donnell, of property website Zoopla, said: “A major move is needed from the Government to offset the impact of mortgage rates, which will more than double this year.”

Mortgage rate rises will also hit London and the South East hardest, because high house prices mean the market is more dependent on borrowing, Mr Donnell said.

This is also the part of the country where the property market is most affected by stamp duty. The stamp duty banding system means that a buyer’s tax bill escalates disproport­ionately as homes become more expensive.

A buyer purchasing an average home in London in July paid £17,176 in stamp duty – roughly 22 times the £765 bill on an average home in the North East.

Much of the impact on the market will depend on the scale of the tax cuts. Lucian Cook, of Savills estate agents, said the Government may not be able to achieve its aims of offsetting the impact of the cost of living crisis and higher mortgage bills on house prices and transactio­ns.

He said: “Realistica­lly, it seems unlikely that the Government will be able to implement stamp duty changes that outweigh these two overriding factors. Certainly, they would have to do much more than simply increase stamp duty thresholds in line with recent levels of house price growth.”

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