Welsh Government Urged By Conveyancing Association To Match Stamp Duty Changes
The Welsh Government has been urged to open up the housing market by matching the recent changes to stamp duty in England and Northern Ireland, by the leading trade body for the conveyancing industry.
The Conveyancing Association (CA) has pointed to the lack of evidence to suggest the there has been an increase in Covid-19 cases in England by opening up the property market, however it states that it acknowledges the ongoing health risks presented by the virus.
The Welsh Government has made some moves to reopen the property market such as allowing house moves to go ahead provided the property had remained vacant for at least 72 hours before moving in, that marketing and viewing of unoccupied properties could take place and valuations and inspections of occupied properties could take place provided it was done in line with guidance.
The CA have requested the Welsh Government review the current guidance against the market and sector-specific guidance that has been issued to all practitioners in England, and suggested that similar rules be put in place that would allow the housing market to be fully opened up in Wales.
As well as opening up the housing market, the CA has also asked that the Welsh Government match the recent Government changes to stamp duty for purchasers in England and Northern Ireland. Currently in Wales the first £180,000 of a property has no tax, however it increases to 3.5% up to £250,000, 5% up to £400,000 and 7.5% up to £750,000.
On Wednesday, chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that purchasers in England and Northern Ireland would pay no stamp duty on properties up to £500,000, until the end of March. The CA believes that this will mean activity levels in Wales will remain subdued even if the property market is fully opened up, if the Welsh government does not follow suit.
Paul Smee, Chair of the Conveyancing Association, said:
“We fully appreciate the public health concerns that the Welsh Government is weighing up when looking at when to fully open the housing market, however we must also highlight that there is no evidence to suggest that opening up the English housing market has caused any spikes in cases or has put people at greater risk.
“If anything, because of the excellent guidance that was collated and issued to the entire industry, we have been able to mitigate strongly against any such risk. This guidance can be easily shared with all our Welsh colleagues and the likelihood is that by following this, we create a safe environment and are able to move the housing market forward.
“If it continues to work at a slower pace, and if it feels unable to match the stamp duty changes made in England and Northern Ireland, we believe it is only fair that the Welsh Government explain its reluctance to open up the market and provide a much-needed activity catalyst, given that all evidence elsewhere suggests this would be a safe outcome.”
Lloyd Davies, Operations Director of the Conveyancing Association, commented:
“In mid-June we urged the Welsh Government to go ‘further and faster’ when it came to its housing market plans. Unfortunately, the type of progress we need to see has not been forthcoming and we now have a situation where property purchasers in England and Northern Ireland have a stamp duty holiday which will undoubtedly provide a considerable boost for significant growth in activity and transaction numbers.
“The Welsh market was already lagging two months behind in terms of being fully opened, and an economic recovery aided by a buoyant housing market still remains tantalisingly out of reach for all Welsh property market stakeholders.
“To not match the stamp duty changes will seem particularly galling for prospective home purchasers in Wales, will prejudice the sale of those homes, and will be perhaps most keenly felt by those living, or wanting to live, in border towns and counties.
“Every week that the Welsh housing market lags behind its closest neighbours is a week further away from genuinely being able to kick-start the economy, and we would urge the Welsh Government to act immediately before the damage grows even greater.”