If you were asked to sum up 2018 in one word, the chances are it would be Brexit. How, when and even if we exit the EU in 2019 is all anyone’s talking about this month, in Westminster, the media and even on the street. Yet the impact of Brexit on the housing market is a matter of debate. 

London house prices have been stalled for a while, but this isn’t the case everywhere in the UK. As to next year, what will happen to house prices is anyone’s guess with some commentators predicting steep rises, once the uncertainty of Brexit is over, and others believing prices will fall, whichever way we exit the EU. 

There’s been more to 2018 than Brexit, however, from the feel-good factor of May’s royal wedding to the budget announcements designed to increase the supply of new homes. Read on for our review of the year’s highlights for buyers, sellers, renters, landlords and investors:  



Confidence boost for first-time buyers following stamp duty changes 

According to research from Foresters Friendly Society, over half of millennials saving for a deposit to buy a house are more positive and confident about achieving their goals since Chancellor Philip Hammond revealed the government’s intention to make changes to stamp duty for first-time buyers.    

Last November, the Chancellor announced that stamp duty for first-time buyers would be abolished on all property purchases up to £300,000, and on the first £300,000 on all property purchases up to £500,000, with immediate effect.   

The same research also homed in on the Lifetime ISA, an individual savings account which can be used to assist with buying a first home. Though awareness of the Lifetime ISA is high, only 11% of first-time buyers are making use of it.   

Chief Executive of the Foresters Friendly Society, Paul Osborn, said: “While it’s encouraging that three quarters of those under 40 are aware of the Lifetime ISA, it is evident that more work needs to be done to help them understand the role that it can play in their long-term savings plan.”  

Osborn continued: “The 25% government bonus offers significant savings support at a time when inflation continues to outstrip wage growth and is putting pressure on people’s savings.”  

But the reality of increased confidence among 58% of millennials is a positive development. Though the abolition of stamp duty for first-time buyers will better benefit those not buying in London, many first-time buyers in Wimbledon will be able to benefit from a cut to stamp duty even if they don’t benefit from the full stamp duty saving.    


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More landlords plan to sell off some of their portfolio in 2018 


According to NLA’s research, approximately 20% of its members intend to sell off some of their portfolios in a bid to protect their overall property investments.   

Though the government offered a helping hand to first-time buyers in last November’s Autumn Budget, landlords have been hit with a wave of tax and regulations changes. This, and the fact that landlords are finding it harder to secure buy-to-let mortgages, is leading some landlords to decide to shrink the size of their property portfolios.   

Investors who buy a second property, such as a buy-to-let property, now pay an additional 3% stamp duty surcharge, while changes to mortgage interest tax relief, which are being phased in, will eat into their profits.   

The NLA has now released a series of videos which demonstrate how the tax and regulation changes are affecting landlords.   

The NLA’s CEO, Richard Lambert, said: “More and more people are relying on this sector (BTL) for a home, so it is vital that landlords not only provide a high standard of accommodation, but are incentivised to do so by the prospects of a reasonable return on investment.”  

Lambert continued: “It is our view that these policies are undermining the viability of many landlords’ businesses and removing the incentives to invest in residential property for business purposes.”  

However, if a number of landlords do follow through and sell off some of their portfolios, this will likely make it easier for would-be first-time buyers to get a foot on the property ladder, whether that be in Wimbledon or other parts of the UK.   


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Plans to digitise some of HM Land Registry’s services set to be introduced 

The changes, which are due to be introduced on 6th April 2018, should make it easier for those who are buying and selling property in the UK.   

A public consultation was staged last year, which gave HM Land Registry the opportunity to make known its plans for changes to The Land Registration Rules 2003 and allowed Land Registry to gather feedback from its customers, stakeholders and other interested parties.   

Graham Farrant, HM Land Registry’s Chief Executive and Chief Land Registrar, said: “Our customers are central to everything we do and we want to make dealing with us quicker and simpler by providing more services through digital technology.”  

Digitising the conveyancing process will allow HM Land Registry to offer an alternative electronic service to customers, and paper documents will no longer be necessary.   

The digitisation of some services is part of HM Land Registry’s broader plans for reform and modernisation. With digitisation, however, comes an increased need to bolster resources against online fraud and cyber-attacks, and enhanced security forms a part of the changes.   

The Land Registry was established in 1862 to allow people to formally register land ownership.   


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Numbers of young adults owning their own home have tumbled 


Property prices have risen faster than incomes, leading to more young adults (those aged between 25 to 34) renting for longer.   

A report from the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) shows that in the mid-1990s, 65% of young adults on middle incomes owned their own home. This compares with 2015-16, where only 27% of those in the same group own their own home.   

The research also revealed that home ownership among young adults has fallen throughout the UK, though numbers have fallen most dramatically in the south-east of England.   

These numbers reflect the reality that average house prices in the UK, especially in London, are disproportionately higher than the incomes of young adults.    

Research Economist at the IFS, Andrew Hood, said: “Home ownership among young adults has collapsed over the past 20 years, particularly for those on middle incomes. For that group, their chances of owning their own home have fallen from two in three in the mid-1990s to just one in four today”.   

In summarising the reason for this, Hood said: “house prices have risen around seven times faster in real terms than the incomes of young adults over the last two decades”.   

Though the figures paint a gloomy picture for young adults who want to own their own home, the government is pushing forward measures which support the ability for young adults to climb onto the property ladder, including the abolition of stamp duty for first-time buyers up to a certain price point.    


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Buying is more financially sound than renting in London, research shows 


Buying a property is more financially sound than renting one, and the ‘greatest annual saving’ in London amounts to £2,191.   

Of the findings, Managing Director at Halifax, Russell Galley, said: “The gap between buying and renting has widened significantly, primarily driven by a reduction in mortgage rates and a more competitive market pushing down monthly payments”.   

Galley continued: “Despite having to put down a sizeable deposit up front, home owners are overall better off than renters in all parts of the UK”.   

It’s also been reported that some landlords are leaving the buy-to-let market following the introduction of various tax and regulation changes, which may succeed in pushing up rent prices even more for tenants.   

The government has given a helping hand to first-time buyers, abolishing stamp duty on the purchase of property worth up to £300,000, with stamp duty savings for first-time buyers if they purchase a property worth up to £500,000, which will help some first-time buyers in London.    

But these findings emphasise the struggles many renters face should they be trying to save for a deposit on a property   


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Pressure on first-time buyers as asking prices rise 


According to Rightmove, there are 5% fewer properties coming onto the market now as there were during the same period last year yet demand for property remains.   

There has been a general increase in the number of first-time buyers looking to snap up properties, mainly due to the stamp duty savings most first-time buyers can now benefit from.   

Rightmove Director, Miles Shipside, said: “Many buyers entering the traditionally busy spring market this year face paying more than ever for their target property, and having a more limited choice.   

Shipside continued: “There is also upwards price pressure in the lower and middle market sectors with both first-time-buyer and second-stepper properties at new national record price highs. The first two months of 2018 saw Rightmove traffic at its highest ever levels, and this demand appears to be now feeding through to fuel the substantial £4,503 jump in average new seller asking prices this month”.   

With supply still not matching up to demand, affordability continues to be an issue for many first-time buyers and ‘second steppers’.   

In what is usually a busy time of year for sellers and buyers, Rightmove has reported a boost in the number of visitors to the website. The rise in asking prices is being driven by demand, shortage of supply of appropriate properties, and the seasonal Spring rush.   


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Majority of homeowners have made improvements in last five years 


73% of homeowners in the UK have made improvements to their properties in the last five years, underlining how increasing numbers of homeowners are choosing to improve rather than move. 


According to NAEA Propertymark, homeowners have spent approximately £41 billion doing up their properties over the last five years.   

The most popular update homeowners choose to give their properties is redecorating, while landscape gardening, the installation of new flooring, and fitting a new bathroom are also popular changes.    

NAEA Propertymark’s Chief Executive, Mark Hayward, said: “There are many reasons why homeowners are improving their property – whether it’s because they have realised the value and sale potential it can add, or they cannot afford to move and are looking to make the most of what they’ve already got.”  

Your house will almost certainly be more attractive to buyers with some general sprucing up and cleaning, and improvements that create a sense of space, privacy and give a great first impression will increase saleability”, Hayward added.   

Most homeowners who have carried out home improvements did so to make their property more to their liking, while 25% of homeowners carried out improvements to make their property more saleable and to add value.    

There are multiple options open to homeowners if they want to improve their properties with a view to selling them, including updating the kitchen, making the property more energy efficient, and depersonalising the interiors.   


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Boost for buyers as London house prices fall 


Average house prices in London have dipped in the year to February 2018, in a small boost to potential buyers in the capital. 


According to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), average house prices rose elsewhere in the UK in the year to February 2018, but by contrast have fallen in London.   

Property values in London have been falling since mid-2016, around the time of the Brexit vote. The UK’s decision to leave the European Union has impacted the stability of the London property market, as have stamp duty rises.   

Transaction volumes are lower now as more people are choosing to stay put for longer, though asking price reductions and more realistic prices have propelled London buyers into action.   

Landbay’s Chief Executive, John Goodall, said: “Affordability is a key concern for aspiring home owners, especially in London where they are battling rents that are 2.5 times those across the rest of the country.”  

Demand from buyers in London has slowed due to affordability issues, so the slight dip in average house prices can be considered a boost to would-be buyers.    

What is still needed is continued investment into the delivery of new homes and infrastructure both in the capital and elsewhere in the UK.   


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Technology to play a vital role in the construction of new homes 


The government is to work with the building industry to support the delivery of well-designed, quality new homes to meet the needs and expectations of buyers. 


Speaking at the Design Quality Conference last month, Housing Minister Dominic Raab revealed that a £1 billion injection of capital into the Home Building Fund will go towards the development of innovative new construction and design methods.   

Emphasis is also being placed on the importance of technological innovation, and using technologies, such as virtual reality, to allow communities to visualise new housing developments before they are even built.  

Research has shown that most people would support the development of new homes in their area if they know those homes will be built in a style which is in-keeping with and complementary to the area, and consider them to be quality, well-designed homes.   

Housing Minister Dominic Raab said: “Ministers will focus on how developers can use better quality design in order to win over both communities and new generations of first-time buyers, who expect the highest quality homes before parting with their hard-earned deposits”.   

The government will also look to give councils greater autonomy over local planning policy and building design standards.  

Though the delivery of new homes is vital to meet demand, the conference naturally focused on the need for new homes to be well-designed, built to as high a design standard as possible, and able to meet the expectations and desires of property buyers.   


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Survey reveals the true value of home improvements for homeowners and potential vendors in London 


Homeowners can increase the value of their property by around £50,000 by creating an open plan kitchen and dining area and by removing an internal wall to allow for a more spacious interior. 


According to research recently carried out by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) and the HomeOwners Alliance (HOA), homeowners in London can spend £3,500 on home improvement work and reap the benefits of almost £50,000 in returns for the ‘average-priced home’.    

For homeowners who are looking to sell and advance up the property ladder, it appears that a little home improvement work such as opening up the kitchen/dining room area can result in healthy returns for the seller.   

Home sellers will always want to maximise the market value of their property, and this will give them, as a property buyer, greater purchasing power.   

Chief Executive of the FMB, Brian Berry, said: “If you’re looking to move up the property ladder, it’s obviously in your best interests to increase the value of your home as much as possible.”  

“By investing in low-cost, high-return projects, not only will you make your home a more pleasant place to live, you’ll also be increasing its value significantly. Better still, these projects take no time at all so the hassle factor will be kept to an absolute minimum.”  

However, homeowners are advised to choose their home improvement project carefully. Not all home improvement projects are expected to add as much value as the kitchen/dining area project, and the amount of value likely to be added to a property can also depend on the area you live in and what property buyers in your area might be looking for.   


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 Buyers pay premium prices to live by Wimbledon Park 

Properties located within easy reach of a public park or garden square are worth far more than those which are further away from them.  

 According to new research, homes near parks and garden squares in London can be worth on average £380,000 more than homes which are not near open green spaces.   

This is true in the Wimbledon area, where buyers pay more to live on the outskirts of Wimbledon Park than any other park in London.    

Property buyers also pay a premium to live near Richmond Park, though interestingly, buyers don’t have to pay such a high premium to live near Battersea Park.   

We’ve always known that buyers will generally pay more – and need to pay more – to snap up a property near to a garden square or attractive public park, and this data confirms it.   

With The Championships, Wimbledon about to get underway, homes located close to the venue where the tournament is held – the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club – also command premium prices.   

The Wimbledon area continues to be one of the preferred locations in the capital for buyers looking for prime property but with more space, possibly a garden, and proximity to parks and open countryside, as Wimbledon offers.   

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First-time buyers today more likely to make their first home their ‘forever home’ 


Millennials are more likely to make their first home their ‘forever home’ when compared with the previous generation of first-time buyers. 

According to a survey carried out by Space Station, which provides self-storage facilities, first-time buyers today are 1.5 times more likely to remain in their first home when compared with buyers who bought property for the first time 20 or 30 years ago. 

The survey, which looked at 1,000 people preparing to buy their first home now and 1,000 who bought their home between 1988 – 1998, of those buying now, 36% said they plan to stay put in the long-term compared to 26% of those who bought a property between 1988-98. 

The survey also revealed how much harder it is for first-time buyers looking to buy their first home today when compared with the previous generation of first-time buyers. 

According to the survey, millennials today are finding it harder to scrape together the funds for a deposit, and given the cost of moving, once installed in their first home, are less likely to consider moving into a second home. 

The funds necessary for moving up the ladder today are such that 43% of property owners now plan to stay put and improve what they already own instead of moving to a new property. 

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Professional body for accountants calls for stamp duty to be paid by sellers not buyers 

 The Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT), the professional body for accountants, is calling for stamp duty to be paid by property sellers and not buyers. 

Calls for changes to the property tax have been getting louder in recent years, and now the AAT is urging the government to make it a tax payable by sellers, not buyers. 

Voices from across the property industry have also spoken out in support of making this fundamental change to stamp duty. 

Though stamp duty has been abolished for most first-time buyers, those looking to climb onto the property ladder in London will struggle to find a property which will allow them to be completely exempt from paying stamp duty. 

The AAT is also arguing that by removing the burden of paying stamp duty for buyers, this will boost transactions and get the sales market moving. 

In recent years, partly has a result of Brexit and the ongoing negotiations, the sales market in London has slowed. 

Head of Public Affairs and Policy at AAT, Phil Hall, said: “AAT has long recommended switching Stamp Duty liability from the buyer to the seller which would lead to a Stamp Duty reduction for every house buyer in the country.” 

“It would also eliminate Stamp Duty for all first-time buyers without having to waste £670m a year on the latest subsidy scheme which came into force for first-time buyers last November”, he added. 

Taking the burden of having to pay stamp duty away from buyers and onto sellers would help first-time buyers looking to purchase their first home in Wimbledon and the surrounding areas. 

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Proximity to top state schools comes with house price premium 

Living in proximity to one of England’s top state schools comes with a house price premium, new research from Santander Mortgages reveals. 

 The research shows there is a premium price on houses within the catchment area of top state secondary and primary schools. 

It’s no secret that property buyers with children of school age are willing to pay more to live close to high-performing, well-regarded state and public schools, and the same is true in the areas of Wimbledon and Coombe, where the many good schools add to their appeal as a place to live for families. 

According to the research, approximately 30% of parents with children aged 4-18 are planning to move in the next few years so that they can live within easy reach of quality education for their children. 

As with state schools, the desire to be near a good public school has led some parents to make big sacrifices, the research showed. For example, 20% chose to downsize their home to be in a catchment area, while some 24% took on extra work to fund the premium prices. 

The ‘largest catchment area premium’ is in London, where parents are willing to pay 15% more to live within easy reach of their first choice of school. 

Managing Director of Mortgages at Santander UK, Miguel Sard, said: “Living in the vicinity of a top ranked school carries a significant house price premium…If families are looking to move into a catchment area specifically to boost their chances of getting into an elite school, they can expect to pay a hefty price.” 

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Support for stamp duty cuts to help property downsizers 

 The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has reaffirmed its support for stamp duty changes to help downsizing as it’s revealed that 8% of ‘last-time buyers’ would potentially downsize if they didn’t have to pay stamp duty. 

According to Key, which offers advice on equity release, changes to the property tax system may be what is needed to get the sales market moving. 

Research from estate agents has revealed there is ‘widespread support’ across the sector for the removal of stamp duty for last-time buyers. 

According to this research, 32% of homeowners aged over 65 say a cut to stamp duty would incentivise them to downsize. However, a higher proportion of homeowners aged over 65 – 37% – say stamp duty cuts would have no effect on their decisions. 

It’s important to remember that there are many barriers to downsizing – the cost of stamp duty is not the only consideration. 

People often become attached to their home and the neighbourhood they live in, especially if they’ve lived in the area for many years. 

Key’s Chief Executive, Will Hale, said: “While making changes to stamp duty is likely to appeal to some over-65s, downsizing can be more complex than anticipated so a move like this could only be part of wider solution.” 

However, whatever can be done to encourage movement from last-time buyers should impact positively on first-time buyers, boosting activity at all levels of the property ladder. 

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NLA puts recommendations to Government before Budget 2018 

 With the Budget date set, the National Landlords Association (NLA) is the first industry trade body to put forward its recommendations to the Government. 

Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond is scheduled to present the Budget to Parliament on 29th October 2018, and the NLA has issued measures it would like to see enforced. 

The key focus is on Capital Gains Tax, and there is a request for the surcharge to be removed when selling property. 

Crucially, and perhaps unsurprisingly, it calls for the additional 3% stamp duty levy on extra properties to be abolished. 

The NLA also requests a review into the phasing out of mortgage tax relief, asking the Government to consider whether this measure has done more harm than good to the buy-to-let market. 

Meera Chindooroy, Policy and Public Affairs Manager at the NLA, said: “Landlords are running a business, but the Government refuses to acknowledge that and treat them appropriately. If they want landlords to continue to provide homes, and fill the gap in social housing, they need to properly incentivise landlords to remain in business.” 

The recommendations aim to boost investment in the buy-to-let market while improving the level of support available to landlords so that they are incentivised to provide the homes needed. With rental demand still high in London, the NLA hopes such measures will be taken into consideration. 

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Five budget announcements – and what they might mean for you 

Philip Hammond’s last pre-Brexit budget saw the Chancellor signalling an end to austerity, with improved growth forecasts allowing for income tax cuts and spending on the NHS, social care and housing. Mr Hammond said: “Today, I can report to the British people that their hard work is paying off and the era of austerity is finally coming to an end.” Here’s what some of the Budget measures might mean for you … 

If you’re a higher rate taxpayer 

There was good news in the Budget for UK taxpayers. The higher rate income tax threshold will rise from £46,350 to £50,000 in April. After that, it will rise in line with inflation. The personal allowance threshold, the rate at which people start paying income tax, will also rise to £12,500 – a year earlier than planned. 

If you rent out property 

Landlords who were hoping for an end to the 3% stamp duty levy on additional properties were to be disappointed – as were landlords looking to sell their rental properties. After April 2020 people who let out their former home will no longer be eligible for up to £40,000 in lettings relief on the capital gains tax they pay when they sell the property. 

If you, or a family member, need help getting on the housing ladder 

They could benefit from two announcements in the budget. The Chancellor will abolish stamp duty for first-time buyers of shared ownership properties priced below £500,000. The Help to Buy equity loan scheme – which offers first-time buyers of new-build properties government loans of up to 40% in London – is being extended by two years, until 2023. 

If you’re an overseas investor 

You could find yourself paying more stamp duty. The Prime Minister recently announced a stamp duty surcharge for non-residents buying homes in England and Northern Ireland. The Chancellor has now confirmed that consultation into a 1% levy will begin in January. Money raised will be used to help tackle homelessness. 

If you’re a driver 

As the Prime Minister had announced previously, fuel duty will be frozen for the ninth year in a row. And councils in England will be given an extra £420m to deal with the annoying problem of potholes on their roads. 

For more on the Budget and what it might mean for you visit the BBC website 

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About the author

Nicolas Holmes

Nick joined Robert Holmes to inject fresh ideas and help grow the New Homes department of Robert Holmes as well as helping to inject technology into the business and to grow its client base. Together with one of the Directors Nick is in charge of all Development opportunities that Robert Holmes deals with along with sales. Aged 40, he provides succession together with the two existing directors. Nick has always been focused on building client relationships and sales. He built up his own gallery in Chelsea, where he had a loyal following of customers and artists.

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