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The Chancellor should look again at the nation’s Stamp Duty thresholds, an archaic tax structure which is distorting the housing market, says RICS as part of its 2014 Pre-Budget statement.

The existing ‘slab’ Stamp Duty system taxes a percentage of a home’s purchase price according to which value bracket it happens to fall into. For instance, a buyer purchasing a property for under £250,000 would pay one percent of the price in tax, while a home sold for just one pound more would generate a tax bill of three percent. This means that many buyers are financially unable to venture above the threshold and vendors may have to price their home below what they may otherwise have sold it for. RICS believes that the government should consider a fairer, marginal rate to replace the current structure which sees few homes come onto the market at between £250,00 and £275,000 whether or not they are worth that price.

The government should also consider adapting Help to Buy to suit individual regions’ needs. Sixty percent of RICS members surveyed believe that adjusting the scheme on a regional basis would make the market more sustainable. Furthermore, half of those who are in favour believe that the funding should be limited purely to first time buyers. RICS would like to see the government reassess the scheme with a view to providing the relevant help according to an individual region’s needs.

Garden cities could prove a good means of boosting the supply of homes on the market. However, these cities need to be located in places where people are able and willing to live, close to sources of employment and the houses need to be affordable housing. To make the garden cities a reality the government needs to publish its outline prospectus to test the market by giving potential developers, communities and investors clarity and certainty.

While much progress has been made in recent years regarding empty property rates, unoccupied shops and offices that require refurbishment before being re-let are still subject to prohibitive business rate tax. This situation acts as a huge disincentive for landlords to ensure their premises are brought up to quality and environmental standards. RICS would like the government to consider a rate exemption period for these premises which would also result in more work for smaller, local construction firms, while helping the commercial property sector meet its April 2018 target of making buildings more environmentally sustainable.

Jeremy Blackburn, RICS Head of UK Policy, said:

“This is a very important Budget for the Chancellor and one which will shape the economy in the run-up to the general election. A major area of concern in the property sector, at present, is the current Stamp Duty system which is both out-of-date and distorts the market by taxing buyers disproportionately high amounts should they go just one pound over the pre-set thresholds. A more intelligent, modern way of taxing property sales is needed for a market which is changing at a rate of knots.

“We would also like to see George Osborne provide more detail as to exactly what is meant by new garden cities and precisely how they would benefit communities and the economy. Taxing landlords who renovate their empty shops and offices is also on burden on the economy and discourages owners from taking their premises out of circulation to meet environmental standards.”

kcm 016Farmland prices hit yet another record high in the South East during the final six months of 2013, having jumped over ten percent in the space of a year, says the latest RICS/RAU Rural Land Market Survey H2 2013.

During the second half of last year, the average cost of farmland in the region rose to £7,750 per acre*, hitting a record high for the eighth consecutive period. The cost of land is now 10.7 percent higher than during the same period in 2012 when an acre cost, on average, £7,000.

Growth in prices has been driven by the on-going surge in demand from farmers looking to expand their operations, while the amount of land coming up for sale is continuing to lag well behind, with the shortage being seen across the board. However, with many areas such as the Thames Valley having been subject to severe flooding in recent weeks, it remains to be seen what impact this will have on the price and saleability of farmland in some areas.

Despite remaining unchanged on the first half of the year, prices in the North West were the highest in Great Britain with the cost of an acre coming in at £8,813. Meanwhile, land north of the border, in Scotland, was the least expensive with an acre costing around £3,750.

Looking ahead, chartered surveyors are predicting prices to continue to rise over the coming year, given the significant supply-demand imbalance. That said, with floods having swept across the country, markets in the southern regions could well be significantly affected in terms of both transactions and prices.

Jeremy Blackburn, RICS Head of UK Policy, commented:
“Farmland price growth has been enormous in recent years. With commodity prices now having remained strong for some time, many farmers have been looking to expand their businesses and, with so little actually coming up for sale, competition for good land is fierce.

“Although, with floods having devastated large swathes of southern England, what remains to be seen is the impact this has on the market in these areas and further afield. It will not be surprising to see this have a negative effect on transactions. In fact, a lot of the best quality and highest value agricultural land in the UK is located close to rivers and on floodplains so this too could potentially have an impact on food production.”

See the report HERE

A six month search to find the most innovative property and construction schemes in the South East is now on, following the launch of the 2014 RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) South East Awards on Friday, 4th October 2013.

Considered the region’s property ‘Oscars’, the annual awards celebrate the region’s most inspirational development initiatives and conservation and community benefit schemes. The launch is the starting point for a six month long high profile campaign to find the South East’s leading examples of best practice, culminating in the Awards Dinners in spring 2014. Read More

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