Irwin Mitchell comments on the Autumn Statement 2023

Jeremy Raj, Head of Residential Property at Irwin Mitchell, comments on the Autumn Statement (22 November 2023).

“The promise of ‘a range of measures to improve the [home] buying and selling process’ is to be cautiously welcomed but most in the industry will want far more detail before they can judge, and the £3m promised for this will not go far.

“Having said that, a great deal of excellent work has already been done in this sphere by a number of organisations and there is no doubt improvements can be made to both the process and at the Land Registry.

“The technology is already available to radically improve things, but Government requires a clear vision to ensure any reforms are robust and future-proof, not just a wish to make things ‘better’.

“Likewise, the digitisation of local council property data is a much-needed reform that could cut transaction times, but it must be properly funded and so far I have been unable to find any reference to extra money for this.

“Anything that eases the plight of renters – such as the increase to the Local Housing Allowance – is of course to be welcomed, but many will be left feeling that this is too little, too late to have a material effect on affordability.

“With rising mortgage and other costs, it is also likely that the payments will simply wash through to service landlords’ increased borrowing or costs.

“Conveyancers will be breathing a collective sigh of relief after early rumours of yet more tinkering with SDLT rates proved to be unfounded.

“The mayhem following previous SDLT ‘holidays’, temporary rate changes and new reliefs has left many of us distinctly wary of Chancellors and their statements.

“Temporary massaging of the property market through such announcements have often led to frantic subsequent activity that left many conveyancers exhausted and fed up, but perhaps more importantly left homeowners desperate to meet deadlines in artificial markets, and subsequently wondering whether they did the right thing.

“Despite relief that the statement did not include any SDLT tinkering, there is still a strong case for a significant review of the tax, and even for its abolition.

“Alternatively, there are plenty of innovative options that should be properly considered, for example fiscal measures to encourage potential downsizers to take the plunge and move out of unsuitable, expensive and much-needed larger homes.

“In the continued absence of adequate levels of delivery of new homes, this could be an innovative and accessible way to address the shortfall.

“The market would be considerably freed up, and millions of unused bedrooms made available to families or others that really need them.

“What is really needed is a well-thought out and comprehensive review of all property taxes, based on the fundamental aim of ensuring more people are in the accommodation they need to suit their personal circumstances, finances, health and overall engagement with society, as well as the energy efficiency and sustainability of those homes.”


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