432 Carlisle Properties Sold in Stamp Duty Holiday Bonanza -Yet be careful of the sting in the tail

On the 8th of July 2020, the Chancellor announced the first £500,000 of any property bought was exempt from Stamp Duty until 31st March 2021. This also included buy to let landlords (although they would still need to pay the additional 3% stamp duty level for second properties). Talking to many of you Carlisle homeowners, I know lots of you are bringing forward your home moving plans to take advantage of this tax cut. Also, many Carlisle portfolio landlords are looking to save paying the tax by bringing their portfolio purchases forward.  Yet how do you ensure you sell and buy your Carlisle property whilst the tax cut applies (a saving of up to £15,000 of stamp duty on your next Carlisle home?).

The biggest issue whenever you are selling your Carlisle property is the properties that you are in competition with. Plenty of Carlisle homeowners have jumped onto the stamp duty holiday bandwagon since the announcement and there are 1% more properties for sale in Carlisle than there were during lockdown. The number of properties for sale in Carlisle can split down into type…

  • Detached Carlisle homes – down 3%
  • Semi-detached Carlisle homes – no change
  • Terraced / Town houses Carlisle homes – up 4%
  • Apartments in Carlisle – up 9%

So, now you know what you are up against, what do you need to know?

The most important factor is the time issue. It currently takes on average 17 to 19 weeks between a sale price being agreed and the keys being handed over, meaning you need to have found a buyer before the end of November or early December to enable you to complete the sale by the 31st March 2021. That means you really need to have placed your property on the market by the end of September and early/mid-October at the very latest to take advantage of the stamp duty holiday. Don’t get me wrong though, you could put your Carlisle property on the market after that date, yet the price you will be able to achieve for your property could be affected.

There are 1,074 properties on the market in Carlisle, of which 432 have sales agreed on them

Talking of price, or more specifically the asking price. There is a window of opportunity for Carlisle homeowners to take advantage of this stamp duty tax cut, yet don’t let local estate agents curry favour with you by tempting you with a high initial asking price to win the right to put their for sale board outside your Carlisle home.

A Which report stated in 2017 that many estate agents routinely over inflated the asking prices of the properties they brought to market. One might ask why this is an issue for Carlisle property sellers, as surely, they can just reduce their asking price at a later date? The excellent report proved that those estate agents who on the face of it appear to be doing you some kindness by endeavouring to get more for your home with a suggested higher asking price, the property often ended up selling for much less than similar properties that were realistically priced properties from day one and also, they ultimately took longer to sell!

This Which report compared the original asking price with final selling prices for 370,000 properties to ascertain how many estate agents had reduced the initial asking price of properties in order to sell them. Which found that 70,300 (19%) of all 370,000 properties sold had to be reduced by at least 5% in order to get the property sold, whilst the other 81% (299,700) had no or very minimal reductions to get them sold.

Of the 299,700 sold properties that weren’t reduced or reduced by less than 5%, the average initial asking price was £261,000, yet they eventually sold for an average sale price of £260,000. For those 70,300 homes whose asking prices were reduced by over 5%, whilst the average listing price was £266,000, their eventual sale price was only £241,000, a loss of £20,000 each. Even worse, those properties with the heavy price reductions (5% or more) took an average of nine weeks and one day longer to sell (when compared to the other properties with no or minimal reductions).

What that means is by over inflating your initial asking price of your Carlisle home, it will cost those Carlisle homeowners an extra nine weeks to find a buyer and they will lose out on the final sale price by some considerable margin (meaning you will also probably lose out on the stamp duty holiday).

Assuming your asking is price is realistic, you aren’t out of the woods yet. Other things that will help you get the best price for your Carlisle home in the best possible time (and thus save you money with the stamp duty holiday) are…

  • Everyone searches on the portals for their next home. Photos are therefore very important (a picture speaks a thousand words). If the weather isn’t good on the day of the photoshoot, ask the agent to revisit when the sun is out (and even tell them to hold off marketing the property until those pictures are perfect) … as you only get one go at being ‘new to the market’, with all the excitement and interest that causes.
  • Employ the services of a solicitor at the same time as instructing the estate agent. Bringing together the legal paperwork of the property you are selling. By doing so, you will save weeks between the sale agreed and completion. Also, solicitors will be really busy, juggling many property transactions at the same time in the next 200+ days. Anything you can do to get a head start on others can only help your cause.
  • Kerb side appeal. Look at your property from across the road. Does the front door need painting? Could a tonne of gravel spruce up your driveway? Maybe adding some hanging baskets and planted pots will help to make a home stand out for the best reasons?

The final piece of advice I can give you is if you are planning to sell your Carlisle home, make sure your Carlisle estate agent can show you proof of similar Carlisle properties and what they actually sold for to back up their suggested asking price. If the asking price isn’t realistic, the chances are you end up losing many thousands of pounds and wasting everyone’s time. If you would like to chat about selling your Carlisle home, please do not hesitate to pick up the telephone.

Nimbyism in Carlisle is Dead – Long Live the Planning Permission Rule Changes:

How will this affect the 40,229 Carlisle Property Owners?

The 1st July 1948 heralded a new dawn in how property was built, as the Town & Country Planning Act 1947 came into force, meaning no property could be built without the say so of the local authority. Now, Boris Johnson has announced a substantial change to that, by in effect, ending planning permission.
 
The decision of what gets built (and what doesn’t) will be removed from Carlisle District Council and replaced by Westminster governed ‘Zoning Commissions’. The anticipated reform will give presumptive building rights to any piece of land outside areas of outstanding natural beauty, green belt and national parks, although in the press release there was mention of protection for the countryside.
 
Travel to Europe and its common to see out of place haphazard development of new households or commercial buildings, surrounded by open countryside … so, I hope these new regulations protect us against that.
 
The principles of the planning rule changes are a departure away from looking at each planning application as a standalone application to a ‘zone-system’ of planning. Land will be divided into three classes: 1st for growth, 2nd for protection and 3rd for renewal. Anyone applying for planning permission to develop homes, offices and shops on land zoned for growth, will automatically be granted planning permission; whilst land zoned for renewal planning permission will be granted in principle while Government officers perform checks. Local authorities have until 2024 to designate areas for the three classes and once agreed, planning departments will have little or no say over individual applications that fit the rules.
 
Interestingly, these changes come on top of new planning regulations coming into force this September which gives implied rights to demolish any office building and replace with a block of flats, and the right to build extra floors/storeys on your home.
 
The Housing Secretary has specified the motive behind the changes to the planning system is not to make planning permissions easier to get (although 88% per cent of planning applications are approved by local authority’s already). Instead, they have been done to make the planning process quicker, less expensive and less likely to be held up by special ‘interest’ groups.
 
97% of planning permissions in Carlisle District Council were approved last year (compared to the national average of 88%)

Noteworthy, the planning rules were changed in 2016 to turn disused shops and office space into residential homes (called ‘permitted development’ rights), yet these new regulations about to be announced by Boris will take that right even further.  This is important because in 2019, there were 241,340 new households created in the country, yet 29,260 of those households came from turning disused shops and office space into residential homes (i.e. the planning permission rule changes made in 2016).
My concern is that the new planning rule changes do not make shop or redundant space into the new 21st Century ghettos. An RICS report in 2018 showed a massive difference between the conversion of office blocks with planning permission and those without (i.e. permitted development). What was interesting is that only 1 in 5 properties met the national space standards, a non-legally binding suggestion on the minimum size of home, minimum dimensions of bedrooms, natural light, storage & floor to ceiling height, whilst 3 in 4 of office block conversions that did obtain planning permission met the standard.
These planning changes cannot be a charter for cowboy builders or developers, otherwise your children or grandchildren could end up renting one of these sub-standard homes, thus stealing human dignity from thousands of youngsters who will end up renting these homes.
 
So, what does this all mean to Carlisle homeowners and Carlisle landlords? If you have been reading my articles you will know that one of the most important factors holding back the Carlisle property market is the lack of new properties being constructed and when they are, the lack of infrastructure surrounding them.
 
Since 1995, only 4,653 properties have been built in CA1/2/3
 
Yet, these new planning changes will also introduce a new method of taking a lot more money off landowners and builders, as the Government will take a larger share of uplift in land value (i.e. the increase in value from farmland to building land) to finance infrastructure around the development.  This would mean new housing developments would come with upgraded roads, GP surgeries, primary schools and shops that these new communities need to be viable. Also, communities will be asked to decide on their own standards on style and design for new developments in their area, allowing residents a greater say on the development in their locality.
 
Like all things, the devil is in the detail. All of us in Carlisle cannot deny that we need to build more homes to keep up with the ever-growing population and the fact that people are living longer. This new planning system should lead to more housebuilding, which in turn would increase the supply of property for those trying to get on the property ladder. Also, in the proposed legislation is the new ‘First Homes’ scheme, which would allow key workers, first time buyers and people who live or work in the Carlisle area to purchase their new home at 30% less than its market value and when they come to sell it, that 30% discount would be passed on to the new buyer (if they also met the criteria).
 
With regard to what can be built and where, Carlisle people will have a say upfront (i.e. between now and 2024 when the zoning rules are drawn up) but once the zoning has been established, then ‘nimbyism’ will become a thing of the past and hopefully we can construct the Carlisle homes we are proud of for our children and for Carlisle generations to come. 
 
Please do let me have your thoughts on this matter.

Carlisle OAP Homeowners to Face £9,976 Coronavirus Tax Bill?

The Government is on track to borrow £400bn because of Coronavirus and that needs to be paid back at some stage. Last year alone, before Coronavirus, the Government brought in £824 billion in taxes whilst they spent £887 billion, meaning they had to borrow £63 billion. In fact, the last time taxes were higher than spending in the UK was 1998, meaning since then the country has been living beyond its means.

Interestingly, whilst these are certainly eye watering numbers (£400bn is a lot of money in anyone’s book) most people aren’t too concerned in the short term. Because interest rates are so low, the Government are able to borrow this money at 0.39 percent per annum over a 10-year period on the Gilt Markets. There are even 3-year Government gilts at a negative interest rate. This is because the UK has been considered (and still is considered to be) a monetary sanctuary/safe haven for the last 20 years because of the country’s robust credit worthiness. Cheap money – yet it still needs paying back in the years to come and that can only be funded by taxpayers.

Ultimately, the Government will have to try to balance the books and that means increasing taxation. I know many will say there is waste in the NHS and MoD procurement, but that has already been squeezed quite hard during the Credit Crunch crisis and years of austerity. Some have suggested stopping the triple lock on pensions, which costs the Exchequer £6bn a year more than if pensions had risen at pre triple lock rates, so that isn’t going to make much of a dent in the debt. Some have suggested we could enter into a second wave of austerity, like we saw from 2010, yet neither the voters nor the wage frozen public sector would accept that. That leaves tax rises as the only option for leaders who claim to take a responsible long-term view of the economy.

The Government could raise tax on spending with VAT increases, but they did that in 2011 when it rose to 20% (from 17.5%). Also, increases in VAT affect the poor more than the rich. Then they could raise it from earnings (Corporation Tax, Income Tax and National Insurance) yet it’s been proved raising these ‘earning taxes’ ends up being counter-productive to the economy, resulting in tax receipts going down (even though the tax rate went up). Both are unsatisfactory, not least because big rises end up being unfair to someone.

So, some ‘think tank’ groups have suggested that we look to unearned wealth and the equity people, especially the older generation are sitting on in their homes, to pay for Coronavirus. Whilst I am in no way promoting and advocating that idea, I thought it was a fascinating suggestion and wanted to know what that would mean for Carlisle homeowners if such a fanciful idea took hold?

OAPs in Britain sit on £1.425 trillion in housing equity in their own homes

The average length of time an OAP homeowner has been in their property, according to official figures, is 24.7 years, meaning on average, 75.8% of that equity is profit. So, if say a capital gains tax of 10% was placed on any profit, it would raise £107.84bn over the next 20 to 25 years. So, what would that mean to Carlisle OAP homeowners?

Carlisle OAP homeowners own £1.261bn worth of property

Taking into account the average length of time those homeowners have been in their Carlisle home, that is an ‘unearned’ profit of £954.46m, or £505.01m after inflation. Some ‘think tanks’ have said that should be taxed as some form of capital gains tax.

To give you an idea, if every OAP homeowner in Carlisle had to pay a 10% capital gains tax when they (or their descendants) sold their Carlisle home, that would cost them £9,976 each (or a total of £95.44m).

So, is this the answer to pay for Coronavirus? There needs to be tax reforms to protect the public finances yet is it fair to tax previous capital gains? Many people say no. Let’s not forget people buy their homes out of taxed income, then pay Stamp Duty, VAT on any improvements and inheritance tax if the property value is more than £675,000, so is it fair the Government want another slice of pie?

The older generation who bought these homes saw mortgage rates of 19% in the late 1970’s and 16%+ in the early 1990’s, meaning for every pound borrowed, they ended paying back £3 to £4 when you added up the interest. Also, let’s not forget all the money spent on keeping up on the maintenance, money that has already been taxed. The upshot will be this would stop OAP’s selling their homes because it would discourage older people from trading down to a smaller home in retirement, making it even harder for younger families to find a big enough home to live in. Also, many people use the equity in their home to pay for retirement care, so if some of that is going to keep the debts down, that means the Government will have a larger social care bill in future years.

One school of thought could be taxing future tax-free gains for ALL homeowners, although given the Tory’s dependence on the more mature middle class (homeowning) voters, this might be a step too far for the Conservatives, so some have said this will be kicked down the road for Labour to sort. Sir Keir Starmer, who appears to be quite a straight-talking and even monetarily responsible Labour leader, is certainly a lot more voter friendly to the British electorate than Corbyn.

At the 2024 General Election, he could introduce what appeared to be a smart agenda of tax increases on unearned property capital gains and as long as it was presented in a clearly defined way, maybe turning the tables on the famous Tory General Election poster from 2010, when the Tory’s mocked Gordon Brown for doubling the national debt, implying it was Labour’s fault for the increase in national debt when in fact it was the Credit Crunch that caused it.   

Starmer could soberly state Labour were the only party that could be trusted to make hard decisions to avoid burdening future generations with the £400bn ‘Tory’ coronavirus debt

One way or another, this £400bn (or £14,440.43 per household) is going to need to be paid back eventually; that means a rise in taxes. Nobody likes paying more tax – yet the truth of the matter is there is a lot of wealth tied up in property, especially with the older generation and so I suppose its introduction is inevitable in the future.

Please tell me your thoughts on the matter…

What’s Next for the Carlisle Property Market?

There is no doubt that Coronavirus will affect the Carlisle Property Market, but just how?

The ensuing economic challenges are going to impact the Carlisle (and UK) property market, yet no one knows the real answer. The newspapers eulogise different opinions, but that’s all they are – opinions and everybody’s got a different opinion. The truth of the matter is we don’t know and won’t know for another few months at least, if not more?

There have been some outstanding Government supportive measures both for tenants, landlords, home buyers and sellers (including a pause on evictions for tenants, and for landlords and homeowners, mortgage payment deferments and stamp duty reductions to make buying a home cheaper), and whilst these are only temporary, they have done their job, meaning there is a good level of activity in the Carlisle property market.

A lot of that is pent-up demand from a couple of years of uncertainty because of Brexit. Also, we had the General Election in late 2019, so there have been so many reasons for people to sit on their hands. At beginning of 2020, it was like a water hose ready to burst with the Boris Bounce in January and February. Then, just as things were beginning to get going in the Carlisle property market, we had everything freeze up for months during lockdown. Since lockdown has been lifted…

the Carlisle property market is open once again for business  and there is unquestionably some impressive activity both in the sales and rental market

So, back to the original question and where are we going? I think what we will see is a subtle change to where people want to live because of the pandemic. People working from home has shown that the need to be in the big cities has reduced and as employees have realised, they can work very efficiently from home, plus they are happier and have a better work/life balance. Their employers are also happy as they get more work out of their staff and can reduce their costly office footprint in the cities. The same goes for Carlisle tenants as they are wanting more from their rental homes. Three trends we have noticed is there is greater demand for properties with gardens, greater demand for Carlisle landlords who will accept pets (as they now can have them as they work from home) and finally, tenants willingness to pay top dollar for ‘top of the range’ properties, whilst more basic and uncared for properties without all the ‘bells and whistles’ need to go for a discount. There certainly has been a flight to quality.

Yet, what worries me is the fundamental future uncertainty in 2021 and beyond. What will things look like say in Spring 2021 when the Stamp Duty reductions are phased out? Any property sold needs to have completed by the end of March 2021 to take advantage of the tax holiday, meaning you need to have sold your Carlisle property by November 2020 at the very latest to ensure your property purchase and sale deal goes through in time (as it is taking on average up to 17 weeks between sale agreed and completion). This is where the difference between a great solicitor, brilliant estate agent and awesome mortgage broker compared to average ones will show. Good ones, when all three are working together for you, can get the sale through in 6 to 8 weeks, not the national average of 17 weeks, meaning if you are cutting it fine, you might not be able to take advantage of the tax savings in the spring. Give me a call if you want to know who the best of the best in Carlisle are to ensure you don’t lose out on those tax savings. 

The value of the average Carlisle home currently stands at £150,700

So, what is going to happen to the Carlisle property market? It really depends on the economy as a whole and of course the property market is a large part of that. I know one thing that buy to let landlords and home buyers don’t like is ambiguity and the British housing market has always lived and breathed on emotion and sentiment. People will only buy and sell property (and borrow the money to make those transactions happen) when they feel good. Are all these things like Stamp Duty holidays just putting off the inevitable? Are we heading for the mother of all property crashes?

Well, let me put sentiment and opinion aside for a second and look at the simple facts.

We have an increasing population, yet we don’t build enough houses

Since 1995, we have built on average 150,200 properties per year. The Barker Report said 2004 the country needed 240,000 per year to satisfy annual demand for new homes and whilst the number of new homes built in the UK last year rose 1% to a 13-year high, only 161,000 homes were built. That means over the last 25 years, with the difference between actual homes built and the targets set out in the Barker Report, we have an inbuilt shortage of 2,245,000 homes, meaning…

Since the Millennium, property values in Carlisle have increased by 155.2%

Other factors have contributed to that. The average age of a person leaving their parents’ home in the UK is 24.4 years and that has been dropping for a few years meaning more homes are required. People are also living longer (in 2000 the average person lived until 77.7 years and now it’s 81.1 years – doesn’t sound a lot until one considers for each additional year the average person lives in the UK, we need an additional 356,500 homes). Finally, we have got immigration. In the year ending March 2019, 612,000 people moved to the UK (immigration) and 385,000 people left the UK (emigration) – meaning a net increase of 227,000 people (or a requirement of c.100,000 homes to house them in one year alone). All those factors in themselves mean…

we have more demand for Carlisle property than we have supply and that’s not going to change any time soon

Property markets are driven (like all markets) by supply and demand so I believe Carlisle property values can only rise in the long term. The question is whether Carlisle people will have the sentiment and confidence to borrow money on a mortgage and invest in Carlisle property, yet at the moment with ultra-low interest rates, borrowing money to buy a home has never been so cheap and if you are in it for the long-term (which you should be with property) then I think it’s good news.

One piece of good news is that mortgage lenders are willing to lend up to 90 per cent loan to value mortgages for first time buyers (and in some rare cases 95 per cent), albeit with a lot of strings attached … yet this is a good sign as the banks and building societies wouldn’t be lending at these levels if they were too scared.

Investing in property, be it for yourself to live in or buy to let is a long-term game. We might see an uplift in prices in the short term because of the demand mentioned above, then again, we might see a dip in 2021 yet again for the reasons mentioned above – until we start to build new homes to the scale of 300,000+ a year (something that has never been achieved since 1969), the long-term picture appears to good. Be you a Carlisle landlord, Carlisle house seller or Carlisle buyer, you do have to be a lot more strategic and thoughtful about what you are going to do. If you would like to pick my brains, drop me a message on social media or pick up the phone.

So those are my thoughts, tell me your thoughts for the future of the Carlisle property market?