Figures confirm UK landlords rushed to beat April stamp duty surcharge

Some 50% of homes sold in the UK in the last two weeks of March were bought by landlords as they sought to beat the new stamp duty deadline on 01 April, new research shows.

There has been a lot of anecdotal evidence that buy to let landlords had been rushing to beat the additional homes surcharge of 3% but the monthly lettings index from Countrywide confirms this.

It says that 50% of homes were bought by landlords in the final 15 days of March compared to 18% during the same period in 2015.

Countrywide’s whole market estimates also show that £28 billion worth of home sales were completed in March, a 76% increase on the previous year, and overall landlords accounted for 23% homes sold in March compared to 13% in the previous year.

This surge in landlord activity means more housing has been made available for tenants to rent and some 22% more homes were brought to the rental market in the first quarter of 2016 than in the same quarter in 2015 and has contributed to lower rental growth rates compared to last year.

The percentage increase in the number of homes to rent has not been matched by the increase in the number of prospective tenants looking for a home which has put further downward pressure on rents. The number of tenants registering was up 16% in the first three months of 2016, compared to the same time last year.

London experienced the largest increase in new rented homes, up 40% on the first quarter of 2015, but lower growth of tenant numbers, up only 8% over the same period. This has resulted in a rapid deceleration in rental price growth with rents in Greater London growing 2.9% in March, less than half the 7.4% recorded in 2015. 

The average UK rent rose 3.4% in the year to March 2016, two thirds of the rate in March 2015. Rents grew fastest in the East of England, increasing by 8.5% over the year. Growth in the East of England was driven by increasing numbers of new tenants registering in the first three months of the year, up 34% year on year, the highest increase of any region.

‘Quite at odds with the intentions of the policy, the first measurable effect of the introduction of the new stamp duty rate has been to increase the number of homes owned by landlords, although this will likely be a temporary affect as we see reduced investor activity in future months,’ said Johnny Morris, Research Director at Countrywide.

‘The increase in supply of homes to rent from landlords bringing forward purchases seems to have taken the edge off rental growth. A similar increase in tenants looking for a home to rent though would indicate this may not persist,’ he pointed out.

‘The large number of sharers, and people living with parents means there is a big store of pent up demand in the rental market,’ he added.