Nick Churton of Mayfair Office writes an open letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer ahead of the autumn budget.
Dear Mr Hammond
The government and opposition parties are now scrambling to put their houses in order over inappropriate behaviour. It is not before time.
But neither is it before time to put other houses in order – our houses. The house buying process isn’t totally broken but it is moribund and fast becoming unfit for purpose. In a world that is speeding up through technology, house transaction times seem to be slowing down. This is off-putting to buyers and sellers who may already be deterred by the uncertainty of Brexit, the high cost of stamp duty and now the first interest rate rise in a decade.
Clearly this can’t go on. The public no longer wish to be hidebound by an arcane and anachronistic system. They want a modern process that allows them spontaneity, speed and assurance without the feeling that they are being exploited.
There may be nothing that can be done about the lumbering Brexit process. Whether one likes it or not that will unfold in its own time. And all the other factors are not going to be a quick fix either. We understand that it’s complicated. But steps could and should be taken now to help what is an important part of the economy. Of course you will have become used to the vast sums of money you are making through a tax that was originally designed not to affect first and second time buyers - but now does because of steeply rising house prices.
But an active housing market has a knock-on financial benefit to many other areas of commercial and taxable activity. So the government, in taking small but positive steps, could help us all by creating a positive environment for house buyers and sellers. Yes, in time the government can do something about the conveyancing process. But right now, Mr Hammond, you could do something to change stamp duty in the upcoming budget on 22nd November. You could take your foot off the brake.
Fortunately there is a silver lining to this current cloud. This market is primarily made up of motivated buyers and sellers. These are people who have to move for a variety of life decisions rather than purely aspirational ones. And as any good estate agent will tell you there is never a better time to be in the market than when everyone is motivated to make things happen. Let’s hope, Mr Hammond, you feel the same.