One third of first-time buyers make lucky stamp duty escape

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One third of first-time buyers escaped paying stamp duty in September as a result of the government's temporary £175,000 nil-rate threshold, according to new data released by the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML).

There were 6,200 first-time buyer loans for properties between the old threshold of £125,000 and the temporary threshold of £175,000, representing 32% of the 19,700 loans to first-time buyers in September. In addition, 7,800 first-time buyers (40%) bought properties valued below the £125,000 original threshold.

There were 7,300 home mover loans for properties between £125,000 and £175,000 which was 24% of the 31,000 loans to home movers in September.

Since the concession was introduced last September, an estimated 132,500 house purchase mortgage transactions have escaped paying stamp duty which otherwise would have incurred the tax at 1% – some 27% of the 486,400 house purchase loans in the period.

There were 50,600 loans for house purchase in September – an increase of 2% from August and 43% from September 2008.

House purchase lending has now increased year-on-year for three consecutive months (following 25 consecutive year-on-year monthly falls) whilst remortgaging has continued its annualised decline, although the rate of decline moderated in September.

There were 33,000 loans for remortgage – a 10% increase from August but 48% lower than September a year ago. Gross mortgage lending was 7% higher than August at £12.9 billion, but was still 25% lower than September last year.

Although lending criteria remain tight, there is clearly demand from borrowers and for those able to provide the substantial deposit, finance is cheaper than in recent years. The typical homebuyer had to commit 12.8% of gross income to cover mortgage interest payments in the third quarter of 2009, this was unchanged from the second quarter and the lowest figure since the first quarter of 2004.

CML economist Paul Samter said: “The stamp duty concession has played a modest role in underpinning confidence in the housing market. As the end date for the stamp duty concession approaches, we may see sustained levels of activity at the lower end of the market in a traditionally quiet time. But the corollary will be lower activity in early 2010 as transactions are “bunched” in 2009. Although the recent bounce-back in house purchase activity is holding up, we remain some way below what might be called “normal” levels of transactions.”

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