Perhaps it’s been our pre-occupation with Brexit, or on the other hand maybe we’re bored with politics, but this year’s Budget has seen little anticipation from the property industry.
It’s at 3.30pm this afternoon so the purpose of this column is to mark your card - to give you the nod on seven key things to watch for when Chancellor Philip Hammond gets to his feet.
In no particular order, here goes with my guess at what’s in store.
Some of these predictions are non-financial - but increasingly the Budget is used for political ‘reveals’ and not just fiscal measures. After all, the letting agents’ fees ban was an-nounced in the Budget two years ago:
1. Stamp duty: Agents want it reformed but they’re whistling in the wind. In 2017-18 the HMRC trousered £9.3 billion income from residential deals, at an average of £8,400 per transaction. The government is not giving that up easily. But expect to hear when the overseas buyers stamp duty surcharge consultation begins - it could be Monday itself.
2. Rent A Room/Airbnb-style short lets: There’s much expectation that increased regu-lation and tax will come down on this sector like a ton of short-let bricks. Landlords and agents will probably be pleased to hear that abuses of lettings regulations are firmly in the Chancellor’s sights.
3. Help To Buy: The equity loan element is due to expire in 2021. Will it be extended? Who knows because it’s a close-run thing - Philip Hammond has been extensively lob-bied by house builders who have seen their bottom lines (and chief exec bonuses) bene-fit from the scheme, but for that self-same reason the scheme has become unpopular with many others including impartial property experts and several Tory-leaning newspa-pers.
4. Longer tenancies: This looks a dead cert as the government continues its flirtation with Generation Rent. Expect financial incentives for landlords though - this could take the form of reduced Capital Gains Tax when they sell buy-to-let units.
5. Selling buy-to-lets to tenants: Related to the above, there is growing speculation that if a landlord sells a BTL unit to the sitting tenant, CGT could be exempted or reduced. No details of a mechanism for conducting this have been released, but it’s an idea floated in the past by trade bodies - so it should be popular in some industry quarters.
6. Business rates: The smart money is on this not being changed, at least yet, despite the haemorrhage of High Street shops and footfall in some areas. However, if by some chance there is a change, agents will be pleased - business rates are being blamed by some for the recent closures of some central London agency branches.
7. Conversions: We’ve had extensions of houses made easier, and Permitted Development Rights on redundant offices being turned into homes - now, it appears, there may be a move to make conversions of shops into flats and houses easier and quicker. It’s a fine balance as many local councils don’t want to throw in the towel on neighbourhood shopping streets but as the online retail revolution continues, this policy - if it’s announced - will be described as a positive move to alleviate the housing shortage.
As usual with these things, accurate predictions will be down to my astute industry and political contacts; those things that do not come to pass will be the fault of pesky politi-cians.
Either way, there will be full coverage of the Budget, what it means for the industry, and the reaction of agents and suppliers on Monday afternoon and in the days afterwards.
*Editor of Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today, Graham can be found tweeting all things property @PropertyJourn