Plight of first-timers continues to top poll of housing concerns
The difficulty in getting on the property ladder and saving the required deposit have topped a list of national housing concerns for the second year running.
Some 83% of people polled by the HomeOwners Alliance (HOA) said that the plight of first-time buyers is a serious problem. There was a slight improvement in sentiment, however, as 87% identified the issue as the biggest problem facing the housing market at the same time last year.
The next most-pressing concern was house prices (76%, compared to 75% in 2014), followed by problems in getting a mortgage (72% in 2015, the first time the issue was included in the poll).
The biggest improvement in sentiment has been to do with negative equity, with the proportion of homeowners saying it is a serious problem dropping from 64% last year to 49% in 2015. The HOA attributed this to "a steady increase in house prices".
Concern about stamp duty rates also dropped from 64% in 2014 to 51% this year as a result of the overhaul of the stamp duty regime in England and Wales (while the new system also came into force in Scotland it will be replaced by another in April).
A third of survey respondents said the changes to stamp duty have made it more affordable for them to buy their first home or move up the property ladder.
Overall, anxiety about housing has receded over the past year with the number of people concerned about various issues falling in all but one area. The availability of housing was the only thing more people were worried about than this time last year, although the change was only small - 70% in 2015, compared to 69% in 2014.
Paula Higgins, chief executive of the HOA, said: "It is very welcome that concerns about stamp duty and negative equity have fallen so sharply over the last year, but 83% of us worry about prospects for first time buyers. Recent announcements about building new homes and Help to Buy Isas are good but with low wage growth, high house prices, and the current lending criteria constraining aspirations to buy a home, we have a long way to go to reverse the decline in homeownership."
A hugely unpopular tax paid on property and share purchases. Stamp duty on property is levied at 1% for purchases over £125,000 (£250,000 for first-time buyers) which then moves up at a tiered rate. For property between £125k and £250k you pay 1%, then 3% from £250k up to £500k and then 4% from £500k to £1m and then 5% for properties over £1m. But unlike income tax, which is “tiered” and different rates kick in at different levels, stamp duty is a “slab” tax where you pay the rate on the whole purchase price of the property. On shares, stamp duty is charged at a flat rate of 0.5% on all share purchases. Figures correct as of May 2011.
The circumstances in which a property is worth less than the outstanding mortgage debt secured on it. Although it traps householders in their properties, the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) says there is no causal link between negative equity and mortgage repayment problems. At the depth of the last housing market recession in 1993, the CML estimated 1.5 million UK households had negative equity but most homeowners sat tight, continued to pay their mortgages and eventually recovered their equity position.