Property transactions in prime central London locations have dropped below levels seen during the financial crisis to hit a new record low, new research shows.
Brexit uncertainty and stamp duty increases are to blame, as declines have also been recorded more broadly across England and Wales, according to a new report by real estate investment advising firm London Central Portfolio.
It comes as the Treasury is facing a £1billion drop in stamp duty from property sales this year – sparking fears a tax crackdown on homeowners has backfired spectacularly.
Declining sales: Prime central London has seen fewer than 70 sales per week over the past year
Sales of homes in the most central and coveted parts of the capital have dropped by 17 per cent in the year to September to a record low of 3,606 – or fewer than 70 sales per week, according to LCP.
That’s 2.7 per cent lower than the previous low of 3,704 seen during June 2009, when the financial crisis was in full swing.
‘It is hard to see how this decline in transactions can be reversed until there is an agreed outline plan for Brexit,’ said Naomi Heaton, chief executive of LPC.
‘International buyers, already affected by successive tax increases and now exposed to negative coverage of the current political situation, are holding back.’
However, the very top end of the market – which includes properties averaging around £4million – seems to have seen a come back as heavy discounting and a weaker pound has encouraged buyers to return, according to the report.
This has helped lift prices in the whole of prime central London, excluding new builds, by 4.9 per cent to an average £1.8million.
Meanwhile, transactions in greater London fell by 7.6 per cent in the year to 87,358 – just above the lows seen during the financial crisis.
Stamp duty calculator
Stamp duty is a major bill for those buying a home but puts more of a burden on some buyers than others.
While first-time buyers get a stamp duty exemption and those buying an average UK home face a bills of about £2,500, people buying expensive homes and buy-to-let landlords can pay tens of thousands.
Our calculator shows how much stamp duty you would pay.
> Stamp duty calculator: How big would your bill be?
The figures was dragged lower by a big slump in sales of new builds, which fell nearly 14 per cent to 13,794. House prices in Greater London grew by a smaller 1.5 per cent to an average £649,246.
Overall, homes sales in England and Wales fell by 3.2 per cent to 779,638, while annual house price growth slowed down to 2.4 per cent, from 5.7 per cent four years ago, with the average price of a home at £266,993.
‘Falling transactions is the common theme throughout all the sectors reported on, and it appears there is still very little cause for optimism,’ Heaton said.
‘Growth has been stifled by the government’s failure to give a clearer picture of what a post Brexit landscape will entail for homeowners and investors alike.
‘Those who have been sitting tight will have seen very little to encourage them to take the plunge in the current climate, particularly as the growth in the value of their own property has been nominal.’
The housing market has been slowing down over the past year, with Brexit uncertainty and stamp duty increases among some of the reasons for it.
Foxtons have recently vacated their most prominent central London office on Park Lane
Stamp duty charges on high-end homes were hiked sharply by former chancellor George Osborne four years ago in a bid to boost the tax take.
He also imposed a 3 per cent surcharge on second homes to discourage landlords.
But it is feared the changes have clogged up the property market at the top end because people do not want to buy expensive homes due to the massive tax bills.
This makes it harder for those further down the ladder to move up, ultimately cutting the number of homes available to first-time buyers. It also means the Government brings in less tax because fewer people move house, critics argue.
LPC said fewer transaction levels were having a major effect on London’s estate agents.
Foxtons have recently reported a first half year loss and vacated their most prominent central London office on Park Lane.
Meanwhile, Countrywide’s mid-year share price fell almost 30 per cent, after a further profit warning.
Will the Budget bring a tax hit?
The Budget falls on Monday 29th October this year and Chancellor Philip Hammond is under pressure to raise some cash to help meet spending promises on the NHS.
Rumours have suggested he may target property, pensions or even inheritance tax to rake in extra funding.
This is Money editor Simon Lambert, assistant editor Lee Boyce and host Georgie Frost debate all the key areas that could be mentioned in the Budget on this special podcast.
Press play to listen to this week’s full episode on the player above, or listen (and please subscribe and review us if you like the podcast) at Apple Podcasts, Acast, Audioboom and Spotify or visit our This is Money Podcast page.