Opinion: What aspiring buyers really need from the government

loveMONEY believe the government's latest attempt to help first-time buyers is merely going to push prices further out of their reach. We look at what the government should really be doing.

Love Money
Last updated:15 February 2018 - 07.39pm

As an aspiring first-time buyer, any conversation around buying a house is tinged with helplessness and frustration.

Though I'm far from alone. Hope of homeownership among my generation is at its lowest point, with many believing that they will never buy a property. 

Unfortunately, the whole process is getting more and more expensive. The average house price in London has risen to £478,142 compared with a national average of £209,971.

Breaking it down, typical deposits have doubled to £26,224 since 2007, while in the capital they’ve quadrupled to nearly £100,000.

To deal with these unreachable costs we need to get help from somewhere.

A good portion comes from the Bank of Mum and Dad (£4 billion out of £10.2 billion in the year ending March 2017 alone).

There's also a host of help from the government, such as the Help to Buy schemes.

But as we pointed out in this earlier piece, all that's done is help push up prices, making it even more difficult for aspiring buyers.

[Read more: We are facing a mortgage timebomb of our own making]

Not the saviour we hoped for

It just so happens that the Stamp Duty exemption announced in the Autumn Budget has done the very same. 

According to a new report from the Treasury Select Committee, a permanent reduction in Stamp Duty will crank up first-time buyer house prices by twice the level of taxation.

It also cites HMRC, who found that the previous Stamp Duty holiday, between 2010 and 2012, hadn’t made properties more affordable.

Though optimistic, Hammond’s master plan won’t fix the broken housing market because it’s trying to solve the wrong problem.

The more money we put towards helping people buy existing houses, the more the prices will continue to rise.

Instead of this vicious cycle, we need more affordable homes to meet the demand without increasing competition for already-overpriced properties.

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What should be done

National charity Empty Homes says that England needs around 240,000 – 245,000 extra homes a year to meet newly arising demand and nearly one-third of those needs to be below market prices and rents.

To get the engine going on house building, regulations and red tape should be cut to speed up the process and (as Hammond actually promised in the Autumn Budget) more money needs to be invested in training to get tradespeople working on building.

We also need to make it less enticing for investors to hold onto properties in the name of self-interest.

'Buy-to-leave' causes problems as it's often the ones intended for first-time buyers they're after.

Rather than deal with the potentially troublesome tenants and wear and tear, they'll leave a property to increase in value and then sell it as new at a higher price. 

Taxing empty properties at an even higher rate could be the thing that finally puts buy-to-leave investors off. 

Investors aside, providing a greater number of affordable homes will be beneficial for all buyers: people further up the property ladder will face less competition and increasing price pressure from those lower down and, of course, those newbie buyers can finally get their foot on the first rung.   

Compare mortgage rates today: see if you could save