Autumn Budget 2018: Good news for first time buyers and cash to help people buy in their local areas

Jo Thornhill
29 October 2018

There was some good news for first time buyers as the Chancellor extended the stamp duty exemption on first home purchases up to £500,000 where the property is part of a shared ownership programme (in England and Northern Ireland). The previous tax free threshold was £300,000 for all first time buyers.

The allowance will be applied retrospectively for property transactions up to the date of the last Budget (22 November 2017).

In a range of measures to address the housing shortage the Chancellor also announced £2 billion of new funding for the Affordable Homes Programme – this should give housing associations greater funding certainty over the next ten years, £1 billion of British Business Bank guarantees to support smaller housebuilders, plus an extra £500 million for the Housing Infrastructure Fund, which improves the infrastructure to enable new sites to be used for housing.

But though the stamp duty extension and investment in the housing market were welcomed, experts say it will help very few potential buyers.

Mike Scott, chief property analyst at estate agent Yopa, says: ‘This measure will help very few buyers. The new funding and support for house building in both the private and social sectors are welcome but will take years to actually deliver any new houses.’

The Chancellor said a new Help to Buy equity loan would be launched in April 2021 and would run for two years – available only for first time buyers and for properties with a market value up to a new regional property price cap (the maximum would be £600,000 in London, for example). The government has said it does not intend to continue with further schemes after March 2023.

Jeremy Leaf, a north London estate agent and a former RICS residential chairman, says: ‘The most disappointing aspect of this Budget is that nothing has been done to improve low transaction levels in the market, which is not just bad for the property market but even worse for the wider economy. Given the rapid expansion of the private rented sector over the past few years, more support to ‘Generation Rent’ would also have been welcome, such as sales of rental property to long-term tenants.

‘On the positive side it is encouraging that there will be no further taxes on landlords or homeowners or on land sold for development,’ Leaf adds.

The Chancellor announced an £8.5 million fund will be made available to enable more local people - who are often priced out of their own towns and villages - to buy homes in their area at affordable prices. The Localism Act allows people to come together to prepare neighbourhood plans and development orders to ensure they get the right homes in the right locations for local people. The government’s cash injection will support these schemes so 500 parishes can allocate and permission land to be sold at a discount.

The Budget introduces restrictions on the tax relief for people who rent out a property which was their main home at some point. There is never any capital gains tax (CGT) paid by homeowners when they sell their own home (their main residence) and until now there was some relief on the tax for people renting out a home that had once been their main residence. But from April 2020 they will only qualify for the relief if they were in shared occupancy with the tenant.

The final period exemption (the time you owned your home before selling which is exempt even if you were not living at the property) will be reduced from 18 months to 9 months. The government will consult on these changes. There will be no changes to the 36 months final period exemption available to disabled people or those in a care home.

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