The Chancellor has announced that stamp duty is to be abolished for all first time buyers on properties bought up to £300,000, effective from today. In addition, first time buyers purchasing properties up to £500,000 will pay no stamp duty on the first £300,000.
In his Budget, Philip Hammond announced that 80% of first time buyers would pay no stamp duty at all. With 358,000 first time buyers in the last year, this means that at least 24% of all sales in the UK’s housing market are set to be charged 0% tax. Once other exempt sales under £125,000 are taken into account, this figure will be even higher.
Two thirds of properties bought so far this year across the country have been under the new threshold but there are large regional variations. In Wales and the North East, over 90% of sales in the last year have been over £300,000 while just 17% of sales in London were for less than £300,000.
While good news for first-time buyers, this will further squeeze investors in the sub-£500,000 market who are already suffering from increased taxes. What's more, it does not, give any encouragement to owners higher up the chain to downsize.
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The hot topic of the moment is once again when will Base Rate start to rise. That was stoked up initially by the comments by The Governor of the Bank of England that the need to consider an increase would come into “sharper relief” around the turn of the year.
The August meeting of the Monetary Policy Committee saw one member vote for a rise of 0.25%, although that was heavily outweighed by the eight that preferred to once again hold the rate at its current record low.
Although there may not be an imminent change to the Base Rate it underlines once again that the current ultra low rate of 0.50% cannot stay that low forever. Even though most expect that any change will not be forthcoming until next year mortgage borrowers should still be considering their options now.
As expectation of a rate move heightens the funding cost for lenders is lifting and we have already seen some fixed rate deals edging up as a result. Although the market remains extremely competitive, which helps to keep rates attractive, lenders can only deal with higher costs for so long.
Some major lenders have increased some of their fixed rates already and some of the very lowest fixed deals have gone. Borrowers that fail to take action until the Base Rate has risen should expect to find that the lowest fixed rates will have already gone.
There’s no need for panic just yet as rates are still very competitive and the Governor has again emphasised that even when rates do start to rise it will be a gradual increase rather than rocketing costs. Nonetheless, anyone that is considering the benefits of locking into a fixed rate may want to review their options now.
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