Similarities are notable between the Conservative and Liberal Democrat manifestos, which can be used to interpret what impact this Government is likely to have on Property.
The first similarity was clearly the plan to abolish Home Information Packs before a property could be sold. The Liberal Democrats did however wish to retain the Energy Performance Certificate element of the packs. As of today (21 May), this plan has been implemented following the announcement by the Government for their immediate suspension. This would seem to be a sensible move by the Government; many had predicted this move and could therefore have had the effect of sellers withholding their properties from the market, hoping to save the cost of the Home Information Pack. This move will certainly be welcomed by residential developers and sellers alike, and hopefully bring back some spontaneity to the market.
A second point on which both parties are agreed is for a more localised planning policy. The Conservatives want to see a new “open source” policy, with local people being able to specify what type of development they want. The Liberal Democrats want local authorities to determine how and what type of developments are carried out. These proposals are in line with a clear intention to scrap the previous Government’s housebuilding targets, which many commentators state to be unrealistic based on current levels of construction. Whether a more local planning policy will help developers in obtaining planning for developments remains to be seen. One move which developers may not be so keen on is a Conservative proposal to force developers to pay a tariff to local authorities as compensation for the loss of amenities and costs of additional infrastructure.
The Conservatives proposal to permanently scrap Stamp Duty Land Tax for first-time buyers on properties priced under £250,000 may help the lower end of the market. Whilst this is likely to be welcome news, its effectiveness could be watered down by the scaling down of schemes such as Homebuy Direct, which has been suggested by the Liberal Democrats. This scheme has been of assistance to a number of developers and purchasers alike during challenging times.
There has also been much news on plans to increase the rate of Capital Gains Tax, currently at 18 per cent, and thought to be likely to increase to at least 40 per cent. This is not just likely to hit property investors and people investing in property to fund their retirement, but potentially also people who had lost confidence in pensions and may not have made separate provisions. However, if this has the effect of putting off potential buy-to-let investors from entering the market, then this could see an upturn in rental incomes as demand outstrips supply for rental properties.
Clearly, some uncertainty remains as we wait to see whether any such plans are watered down following consultation and the parliamentary process.