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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Agent stands up for industry as MPs squabble over Brexit and election

A leading London estate agent has written to The Times dismissing MPs who have been squabbling over Brexit and a possible snap General Election, and instead defending the estate agency and property industry against a string of political attacks.

The letter has been shared with Estate Agent Today.

In it, Marc von Grundherr - director of London agency Benham and Reeves - says that the housing market has performed with surprising resilience during the three and a quarter years of Brexit uncertainty, with prices broadly higher than they were in 2016 and transactions volumes down because of the effects of stamp duty rather than because of other issues.

Adopting a ‘plague on both your houses’ position to Conservative and Labour attacks on the buy to let sector, von Grundherr says: “Enter stage left the Labour Party with a nuclear option or two to finish the job that the Conservatives seem to have started.”

Referring to Labour’s most recent policy announcement - to allow private tenants the right to buy their properties even if landlords do not want to sell, and at an unspecified discount as well - von Grundherr writes: “[Shadow Chancellor] John McDonnell says he wants to tax landlords until, presumably, their pips squeak. And now wishes to steal 20 per cent of the value of each of their properties and gift that to their tenants with a neat bow attached.”

The Benham and Reeves director also criticises the Conservatives for what he calls an “asphyxiating” 15 per cent highest rate of stamp duty for some buyers in London which he says is down to “the assault on stamp duty orchestrated a couple of Chancellors ago.”

Here is von Grundherr’s letter in full:

Dear Sirs,

As our political parties squabble over our European future and the country sits in a state of political paralysis, note that our property market has retained dignity even if our politicians have not.

UK house prices and rental values are higher than before the referendum by eight per cent and five per cent respectively and whilst transactions in London in particular are now lower, much of this can certainly be attributed to the assault on stamp duty orchestrated a couple of Chancellors ago where the top rate is now an asphyxiating 15 per cent.

This is remarkable resilience overall really yet, not content with successive attempts at destroying the market and sucking positive sentiment out of it, enter stage left the Labour Party with a nuclear option or two to finish the job that the Conservatives seem to have started.

Sadiq Khan wants to cap rents and therefore the investment yields that landlord investors may achieve. John McDonnell says he wants to tax landlords until, presumably, their pips squeak. And now wishes to steal 20 per cent of the value of each of their properties and gift that to their tenants with a neat bow attached.

If this short-sightedness succeeds in becoming law in the event of a change of administration, as now seems possible, the glee of the Treasury and tenants respectively will be very short lived indeed when they suddenly realise that there are no landlords left with which to fight.

The property market underpins our economy, provides much of our social housing via the PRS, employs hundreds of thousands of people and contributes billions of pounds in direct and indirect taxation.

Like the proverbial piñata, if you bash it for long enough, your sweets fall to the floor and then disappear in all directions.

Yours faithfully,

Marc von Grundherr, Director, Benham and Reeves

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