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The number of prospective buyers in the UK housing market has increased for the third consecutive month, according to the Rics Residential Market Survey.

The survey of chartered surveyors showed 13 per cent reported an increase in new buyer enquiries rather than a fall.

However, the survey showed supply shortages are leading to only a modest growth in sales activity and there has been a further decline in the amount of homes for sale.

Surveyors expect the beginning of 2017 to be quiet reflecting the lack of fresh properties coming to market.

As stock reduces the outlook for house price growth over the year to come is positive across the UK, with a net balance of 40 per cent of respondents forecasting a rise.

There is less confidence in the prospects for London property prices relative to other areas, with larger properties in the capital expected to show the slowest price growth.

The survey show that tax changes are still weighing heavily on the London market. The government has made tax increases on property at multiple levels, effecting developers and investors alike. The 3% stamp duty hike on buy to let has been negative; many new investors are looking  to make use of companies as a route into the market. Charterhouse can provide specialist advice on this.

A key issue for the housing market is the slowdown in transaction activity since the spring, which is clearly being reflected in the Rics agreed sales data as well as in official figures.

Stock levels are around historic lows we expect any pick-up in activity to be gradual. 

 

 

Ten key points to consider when buying a second home for your own use or as a buy-to-let investment 

To buy-to-let or not to buy-to-let, that is a difficult question! It can be quite a conundrum for people with capital to invest who are dithering between the stock market or bricks and mortar.

Since April 1 – as many homeowners will be aware – a stamp duty surcharge of three per cent has been levied on second homes with obvious implications for the buy-to-let sector. If you are contemplating a second home, whether for your own use or as a buy-to-let investment, here are the 10 key points to bear in mind.

1. Stamp duty – or to give it the full title, stamp duty land tax (SDLT) – is a tax paid by homebuyers when they purchase property or land. The tax is banded so that no tax is levied on properties worth less than £125,000, but £7,500 on a property worth £350,000 and £43,750 on a property worth £1million, and so on.

2. Since April 1 second homes have been subject to a three per cent stamp duty surcharge. Under the banding system, second homes worth less than £125,000 now attract three per cent tax instead of zero. Those worth between £125,000 and £250,000 now have a five per cent rate rather than two per cent, and so on. At the top end of the scale, second homes worth in excess of £1.5million attract 15 per cent stamp duty rather than 12 per cent.

3. Visit the government’s stamp duty calculator to work out tax liabilities.

4. Second homes – for the purposes of the stamp duty surcharge – are homes other than a main residence whether they are let or not. It does not matter if a main residence is overseas because a second home in the UK will still be subject to the stamp duty surcharge. However, a buy-to-let property will not attract the higher rate if the main residence is rented, not owned.

5. Homebuyers helping a family member buy a property will still be treated as second home owners and the relatives will be liable for the surcharge.

6. Anyone owning two homes because they have bought a new one, but not yet sold the old home, will have to pay the three per cent surcharge. But if the old home is sold within three years, the three per cent will be refunded.

7. No one will be able to escape the higher rates of stamp duty by ‘flipping’ properties which is defined as moving into a new home, designating it a main residence, then letting out the old home.

8. Couples who have separated, but not yet divorced, and own two properties between them, will not be treated as second homeowners. But couples living together, whether married or not, will be treated as one unit. They will not be able to buy a second home and escape the surcharge by putting one property in one partner’s name and one in the other’s.

9. Stamp duty is not payable on caravans, mobile homes or houseboats.

10. It is sometimes possible to reduce stamp duty liabilities by designating a property, whether the main home or a second home, ‘mixed-use’: i.e. used for both residential and commercial purposes, such as running a small business. But this can also expose the homeowner to higher business rates and higher rates of capital gains tax. If in doubt, talk to an accountant or mortgage provider about tax liabilities.

New property listing prices have remained in line with the typical run-up to the summer holiday season despite Brexit concerns, Rightmove’s July house price index has revealed.

The portal claims the price of new property coming to market fell 0.9%, or £2,647, over the past four weeks to £307,824.

That covers the two weeks pre- and post- the EU referendum and is in line with usual activity over the summer, suggesting the predictions of a doomed property market are yet to emerge.

House prices are up annually at 4.5%, slightly slower than the 5.5% growth recorded last year.

Asking prices for first-time buyers fell 0.2% in July to £189,183 but second steppers and those on the top of the ladder saw bigger drops at 1.2% and 1.1% respectively

In the last two weeks post-referendum, compared to 2015, enquiries to agents from buyers were down by 16%.

However, Rightmove says last year’s figures were boosted by pent-up demand after the general election result, which saw a 25% uplift in buyer enquiries in June and July compared with the same two-month period in 2014.

The portal says a fairer comparison would be with 2014 when the demand levels were the same as now.

Sellers also seem undeterred by the referendum result.

Compared with the same period last year, the two weeks pre-referendum saw the number of new properties coming to market down by 8%, and the two weeks post-referendum saw them up by 6%.

Miles Shipside, director and housing market analyst for Rightmove, said: “As far as the price of property coming to market is concerned, the fall of 0.9% is within the range that we have seen at this time of year since 2010.

“With the onset of the summer holiday season, new sellers typically price more conservatively and the average drop in the month of July is 0.4% over the last six years.

“Perhaps unsurprisingly this July’s fall is marginally larger, as political turbulence has a track record of unsettling sentiment. Indeed last year saw a seasonally unusual 0.1% fall in the run-up to the May election, and a June and July price surge as a result of the post-election boost. Average new seller asking prices were up by 3.1% over that two-month period.”

Everyone knows that if they have a large hole in their roof, or leave their windows open during a thunderstorm, they will end up with soggy carpets. But they are far less familiar with some of the other causes of damp – and, just as importantly, how to combat them. This at-a-glance guide should put homeowners on the right track to a dry home.

1. Tackle rising damp at its source. Rising damp used to be a subject of comedy. It provided the title for one of Britain’s best-loved sitcoms. But actual rising damp can hit homeowners hard in the wallet and adversely affect their health. Rising damp, as the name suggests, is caused by groundwater finding its way into a home through stonework or brickwork. It can be combated through a modern, properly maintained, damp-proof course.

2. Keep an eye out for ‘tide marks’ on the walls. If your damp-proof course is defective, one of the first ways in which this will manifest itself is in ‘tide marks’ at the bottom of walls. You need to pinpoint the source of the problem, have the necessary building works done and, in serious cases, use a dehumidifier to dry out the room affected.

3. Maintain the fabric of the exterior of your property. Always remember that water can get into a property through its walls as well as through its roof and floors. Poor pointing or damaged masonry is often a harbinger of damp problems further down the line, so look out for potential weak spots.

4. Check that your guttering is in order. If your guttering is defective and rainwater streams down the side of the building, it will only be a matter of time before the water finds its way into your home. So check your guttering regularly and, if there are blocked drainpipes or other problems, deal with them sooner rather than later.

5. Watch out for black mould. Another warning sign to householders that they have a damp problem is black mould forming on either external or internal walls. The mould is not just unsightly, but potentially hazardous, because it attracts mites and, in extreme cases, could cause respiratory problems. You can get simple mould eradication kits online to combat the problem.

6. Remember that damp has internal as well as external causes. If you are boiling a kettle or having a shower and the windows mist over, it is a tell-tale sign of condensation. It is one of the most common forms of damp in the home, and its harmful consequences are often overlooked. You need to be on your guard to stop excess condensation from doing lasting damage.

7. Consider installing ventilation aids. When there is moisture in the air inside a property, the best way to stop it lingering is through ventilation. “Make sure you air rooms well, even in winter,” advises James Carter of Knight Frank. Opening windows will often do the trick, but in kitchens and bathrooms, where the problem is usually most acute, ventilation fans can help speed up the process.

8. Dry your washing outdoors whenever possible. This one is just common sense. Keeping damp clothes on a clothes-horse in the spare bedroom is only going to exacerbate the problem of condensation. Try to dry the clothes outside if possible, even in winter. Alternatively, dry them in a room that is well ventilated.

9. Temperature control is critical. Condensation is at its worst in cold weather, so it is worth keeping your home reasonably warm, even if nobody is at home, otherwise you may pay the price later. Thermostat-controlled heating systems are the optimum way to achieve this.

10. Check out grants for tackling damp related problems. Local authority grants are sometimes available for works to protect properties against damp. The website www.nihe.gov.uk gives a good overview.

If you remain vigilant and think proactively you will save yourself the stresses and strains – not to mention the financial costs – of unwanted damp in the home.

Rise in stamp duty will push up rents

The new buy-to-let stamp duty reforms will push up rent costs and trigger a decline in the supply of available properties, a new survey has revealed. According to the Association of Residential Letting Agents, over half (52%) of letting agents reported an increase in buyers looking to invest in buy-to-let property before the stamp duty deadline in February, up 47% from the previous month. However, nearly two-thirds (63%) predict supply will fall as landlords are pushed out of the market. Almost six in 10 (57%) ARLA members agree rents will be pushed up.
 
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