Surveyors call for stamp duty holiday to help revive housing market

RICS is not an organisation that would call for a stamp duty holiday on a whim," its head of governm

RICS is not an organisation that would call for a stamp duty holiday on a whim," its head of government relations said. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

UK surveyors have called for government intervention to help bring the housing market back to life post-lockdown.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) recorded its lowest ever near-term sales expectations in March, after social distancing measures brought the sector to an abrupt halt.

All of the East of England surveyors questioned in the latest RICS market survey said they didn’t expect sales to increase for the next three months - the lowest net balance since the survey began in 1998.

This ‘net balance’ of responses from surveyors is used by the industry body to measure sentiment; looking ahead to the next 12 months, 50 per cent said they expected sales to fall rather than rise.

While East of England house prices were up slightly in March, with 9 per cent of participants reporting the rise, 78 per cent of respondents said they expected prices across the region to fall in the coming three months, with 37 per cent expecting reductions at the 12-month mark.

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March also saw newly agreed sales drop across the region with 53 per cent more respondents reporting a fall – down from 31 per cent reporting a rise in February.

New homes coming onto the market dropped sharply over the past month, with a net balance of -66 per cent of Eastern respondents reporting a fall.

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Hew Edgar, head of government relations at RICS, said: “These are exceptional circumstances and the Government will need to consider all avenues that could feasibly rebuild confidence, bridging the gap between uncertainty and recovery.

“RICS is not an organisation that would call for a stamp duty holiday on a whim, and indeed our view prior to Covid-19 was that it required a full-scale review.

“As we start to emerge from this crisis, however, it is likely that the finances of potential homebuyers will be under strain, and the burden of stamp duty could put buyers off.

“For those who can afford to move they may lack confidence in the market, adding to the slow down. A stamp duty holiday could be one of the ways to reactivate the housing market quickly as a short-term measure.”

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