Covid-19: property transactions slump by half

The estimated number of residential property transactions in April was 53.4% lower than April 2019 and 46.1% lower than the previous month this year, as coronavirus restrictions brought the housing market to a halt, HMRC statistics reveal 

HMRC says there were 38,060 transactions, as property sales fell to levels last observed during the 2008 global financial crisis, reflecting impacts from government measures introduced to limit transmission of the virus.

The precipitous drop is set to have a sharp impact on Treasury finances, at a time when coronavirus support schemes have seen government spending shoot up, as there will be a corresponding decline in stamp duty land tax (SDLT) and capital gains tax (CGT) receipts.

However, Zena Hanks, partner in the private wealth team at Saffery Champness, said coronavirus lockdown guidance may not be the only factor behind the sudden decrease in selling activity. 

‘Since 6 April, individuals who sell a second home must pay the CGT due within 30 days of the transaction rather than via than self assessment.

‘In addition some of the previously available tax reliefs for home owners have been trimmed. This may be one of the factors which has contributed to this remarkable decrease, with many sellers aiming to get sales over the line pre 6 April 2020 before the changes were introduced,’ Hanks said.

Whether or not the property market recovers to pre-Covid-19 levels will depend on how much disruption there is to peoples’ incomes and financial security, with Hanks saying that if people fear for their jobs and are worried that price falls may leave them with negative equity, a rebound may be slow.

Hanks said: ‘Looking ahead, we may see an uptick in transactions and SDLT receipts for the Treasury later in the year as people try to get transactions in before the introduction of the planned non-resident SDLT surcharge.

‘At the budget the policy costings for this were forecasting £250m of additional SDLT payable this year as people accelerate transactions, and some buyers will be hoping to get deals done once the lockdown lifts but before being hit with a tax hike this time next year.

Monthly property transactions completed in the UK with value of £40,000 or above

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