Stamp duty having 'stifling' impact on housing market, report finds

The "stifling" effect of stamp duty on the housing market means an extra 146,000 property sales could have taken place over the last five years if home movers had not been faced with the tax, a report has estimated.

Despite reforms to stamp duty in recent years, it remains "inefficient", the report argues, fuelling housing shortages, making homes less affordable and putting people off moving to more suitable properties - from those taking early steps on the housing ladder to older home owners.

It also hampers social and economic flexibility by making it harder for families to live near their desired schools or places that could provide particular job opportunities, according to the report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr), commissioned by Santander Mortgages.

The report said stamp duty prevents house sales which could otherwise be mutually beneficial, for example making it harder for older home owners to downsize to a smaller property and growing families to take the step up to a larger home.

In such cases, both types of household would remain in housing which is not ideally suited to their needs, holding back the efficient allocation of housing, the report said.

It estimates that between 2012 and 2017, an additional 146,000 property transactions could have taken place if stamp duty had been removed.

Miguel Sard, managing director of mortgages at Santander UK, said: "The report highlights the unintended consequences of stamp duty.

"First-time buyers struggle to get on the ladder, young families want to move up it and the elderly want to downsize, but all are stifled by stamp duty."

The report also argues that, without stamp duty, the incentive to build more properties would have been higher as, although the charge is paid by the buyer, the seller may bear some of the burden by having to sell at a lower price.

This lessens profits and reduces the incentive to develop supply in cases where profitability is more marginal, fuelling the lack of housing, according to the findings.

Stamp duty has undergone reforms in recent years, including an overhaul in the way it is applied which made it less expensive for the majority of homes but more costly at the most expensive end of the market.

A report from Post Office Money and Cebr in May suggested the average bill for moving home was around £9,472 - including £1,774 in stamp duty.

Christian Jaccarini, an economist at Cebr, said: "While the under-supply of housing has rightly received much attention, our research shows that stamp duty significantly impedes housing transactions, meaning that we don't maximise the benefit from the existing housing stock.

"In fact, we estimate that 146,000 more transactions would have taken place in the five years to June 2017 if stamp duty was removed entirely."

A separate survey from Aldermore bank among more than 1,000 home owners and over 200 prospective first-time buyers found one in six (15%) of those who bought their property more than four years ago would be incentivised to move home if stamp duty was temporarily reduced and nearly a third (30%) of aspiring first-time buyers would consider accelerating their plans to get on the property ladder.