Affordability and stamp duty are impacting UK property markets, particularly London

The proportion of homes sold in London was lower than any other part of England and Wales last year with a new analysis suggesting the market is being hit by affordability and stamp duty.

In total, 3.2% of all private London residential properties were sold in 2017, which was below the average of 4.1% for England and Wales, according to the research from real estate firm Knight Frank.

The London figure marked a decline from 3.6% in 2016 while the average for England and Wales was down from 4.3% the previous year.

The report says that the decline and relatively lower level of market liquidity in London suggests that affordability remains a key constraint on the property market in the capital, which is likely to explain fewer sales transitions as plans are delayed or more people decide to rent.

With the exception of 2009, liquidity in the London market equalled or exceeded the England and Wales average between 2001 and 2014. However, it has been lower by comparison since then.

Average prices in London were 59% above the pre-financial crisis peak in February 2018, which compares to 18% in the West Midlands and -6.5% in North East England.

Property market liquidity was highest in Wales, where 4.8% of all properties transacted in 2017, with 4.4% in the South West of England, 4.2% in the South East and the North West and 4.1% in the West Midlands.

‘The clear message is that relatively high house prices in the capital are a contributory factor to the slower rate of sales,’ said Tom Bill, head of London residential research at Knight Frank.

He pointed out that an analysis of London boroughs compared market liquidity in 2017 to the long-run average since 2001 and the results underline how higher rates of stamp duty have acted as an additional drag on activity.

No single borough saw liquidity levels in 2017 exceed their 17 year average, however some of the largest declines were in boroughs that typically contain higher value properties, as the table below shows.

The 10 boroughs that recorded the largest declines in 2017 compared to the long run average were Camden, Hammersmith and Fulham, Islington, Kensington and Chelsea, Lambeth, Lewisham, Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Wandsworth, and Westminster, all in inner London.

Meanwhile, the most resilient borough was Havering, which was only 0.3% below its long run average in 2017. The long run average rate of liquidity for the whole of London is 4.7%, which was 1.5% above the 3.2% recorded in 2017, which was the widest gap of any region.

The highest ratio recorded for London was 7.2% in 2002. Southwark has historically had the most liquid property market, peaking at 10.2% in 2001.

‘Higher rates of stamp duty have clearly also played their part in curbing transactions in the capital,’ said Bill. He added that political uncertainty is also a factor. The result is a residential property market that is being kept in check to some extent, despite low interest rates and high levels of employment,’ he concluded.

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