‘General Election countdown has already begun for housing market’

Knight Frank’s Tom Bill says pressure for politicians to support buyers, back stamp duty cuts and modify theRenters (Reform) Bill is increasing.

tom bill knight frank

For those attempting to predict the trajectory of the UK housing market attention is shifting away from the Bank of England and towards the Houses of Parliament.

As inflation comes under control and the general election campaign winds up, politics will be firmly back on the agenda.

There were clear signs of this last week.


Ahead of the Autumn Statement on 22 November media reports suggested the government was considering a series of measures to help buyers.

They include extending the mortgage guarantee scheme which enables lenders to offer 95% mortgages as well as other proposals to encourage saving for a deposit.

However, there is only so much the government can do given the bigger picture of interest rates that are normalising after 14 years.


It has been a white-knuckle ride for anyone buying or re-mortgaging over the last 18 months. Stubbornly-high inflation means the seasonal autumn bounce in the housing market has been minimal this year. UK transaction volumes are down by a fifth as buyers come to terms with higher rates and sellers with lower asking prices.

A more eye-catching plan being considered by the Chancellor is a stamp duty cut (SDLT), according to other media reports.

It is measure guaranteed to move the housing market, as we saw during the pandemic and the frenetic activity levels that arose from the SDLT holiday.

Stamp duty cuts have to happen immediately or the market becomes clogged up.”

Stamp duty cuts have to happen immediately and rises (or the end of a holiday) need to happen gradually, not the other way round. Otherwise, the risk is a stop-start market or one that becomes clogged up.

Stamp duty cuts are often the subject of unfounded speculation or wishful thinking, though. Targeted changes aimed at downsizers and alleviating pressures in the social care system could be a more prudent approach, as former government minister Mark Prisk told Knight Frank – more than three years ago.

Sean Randall, Blick Rothenberg
Sean Randall, Blick Rothenberg

“In the last few years alone, there has been a stamp duty holiday, an extension, an indefinite increase in the nil rate band to £250,000 and then a decision to make the rise temporary, so it would be an extraordinary thing to do now,” says Sean Randall, a partner at tax advisory specialist Blick Rothenberg and chair of the Stamp Taxes Practitioners Group.

“It doesn’t mean it won’t happen, but the media coverage hasn’t felt as forceful as it has in the past.”

The problem with all speculation at the moment is that the opinion polls currently point to a change of government next year.


Discussions about what the government might or might not do feel particularly moot at the moment.

And that extends to the Renters (Reform) Bill, which is currently going through Parliament.

There have been arguments over the abolition of Section 21 no-fault evictions and whether this will need to wait until the courts are ready to cope with the workload. It has become a politically-charged debate, but a Labour government could abolish no-fault evictions whether the courts are ready or not.

Campaigning hasn’t begun, but these multiplying uncertainties show the election countdown has now started for the UK housing market.

Tom Bill (main picture) is head of UK residential research at Knight Frank

What's your opinion?

Back to top button