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Rightmove urges stamp duty reform to boost UK housing market

Ahead of the general election in July, Rightmove is calling on the next government to prioritise stamp duty reform to stimulate the housing market. The property portal has outlined four key areas of focus: accelerating housebuilding, supporting first-time buyers, reforming stamp duty, and increasing green incentives.

Boosting housebuilding and affordability
Rightmove’s CEO Johan Svanstrom emphasised the importance of addressing the housing supply shortage. “Being the UK’s largest home listing and search platform, it’s clear to us from our large data sets, consumer surveys, and talking to our agent partners that there are definite opportunities to improve fundamental aspects of the housing market. They include helping first-time buyers, building more homes and driving higher digitisation of processes,” he said.

The UK has seen a 22% rise in national average asking prices over the past five years, now standing at £375,131, while rents have soared by 40% to £1,479 per calendar month. Rightmove’s data shows that since April 2019, buyer demand has increased by 15%, but supply has fallen by 6%. In the rental market, demand has surged by 32%, while supply has plummeted by 38%.

Tim Bannister of Rightmove suggested streamlining the planning process to accelerate housebuilding. “If the government can create smoother processes, working closely with all key stakeholders, it could transform the delivery of new homes and produce more affordable housing,” he said.

Support for buyers and renters
Supporting first-time buyers was the top priority for renters in Rightmove’s study. High mortgage rates and stretched affordability make it challenging for potential buyers to save for a deposit and pass affordability tests.

Matt Smith, Rightmove’s mortgage analyst, proposed a review of mortgage affordability criteria. “There’s an opportunity to unlock greater affordability in a responsible way, which could help more first-time buyers get on the ladder. First-time buyers are already taking out longer mortgage terms and lender innovation has included the introduction of longer-term fixed rates that are likely to be part of the solution,” he said.

Hannah Marsh, co-founder of HomeViews, noted the need for policy reform to address the chronic shortage of rental stock. “There’s a wide-ranging group of people who live in, or who want to live in, Build-to-Rent homes – from young professionals to families. With a chronic shortage of rental stock in the UK, policy reform is needed to enable developments to be built more quickly,” she said.

Stamp duty reform and green incentives
The call for stamp duty reform is backed by both homeowners and agents, with a focus on making it easier for people to move, particularly in higher-priced areas. Rightmove’s data shows that in London, only 4% of homes for sale are exempt from stamp duty, compared to 71% in the North East.

Tim Bannister highlighted the potential benefits of reform. “The next government should make the current changes to first-time buyer stamp duty charges in England permanent. Increasing stamp duty thresholds in line with regional variations would seem a logical first step for stamp duty reform,” he said.

Rightmove also identified green incentives as a key priority. The focus on helping people make their homes more energy-efficient has waned in recent years. Rightmove’s lettings expert, Christian Balshen, pointed out the need for clearer legislation and incentives. “Landlords need clarity around any legislation that may come in, but also need help with incentives such as bigger, more widely accessible grants or tax savings,” he said.

Streamlining the home-buying process
Simplifying the home-buying process is another major priority for Rightmove. Currently, it takes over seven months from listing a home for sale to completing the move, causing frustration for buyers and sellers alike.

Rightmove’s legal expert David Cox stressed the importance of digitisation. “It’s vital that the next government works closely with the property industry to come up with standardised solutions to help speed up the home-moving process. Digitisation is key, and there has been innovation in this space, but it also needs a solid focus from the next government,” he said.

A call for comprehensive reform
As the general election approaches, Rightmove’s report highlights the need for comprehensive housing market reforms. By addressing issues such as stamp duty, housebuilding, first-time buyer support, and green incentives, the next government can create a more stable and accessible property market. The focus on long-term solutions over short-term policies is crucial for ensuring sustainable growth and meeting the needs of buyers and renters alike.