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HMRC “chaos”, dip in house prices, fast fibre connections and other UK property news

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Landlords have been unfairly hit by apparent chaos with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) while rent increases respond to a doubling of demand in many major cities. Landlords in the capital, for example, are hiking rents at a faster rate than any time in the last thirteen years.

In other UK property news, a dip in the increase in average house prices was recorded for November, while house-hunters continue to place a premium on homes with a fast, fibre, broadband connection.

Here are these stories in a bit more depth …

Landlord unfairly impacted by HMRC chaos

Some government offices rose to the challenges of the year’s Covid crisis reasonably well, but others did not. Among the latter poor performers were the tax collection agents, HMRC says a report by Landlord Today on the 16th of November.

The story reveals the serious difficulties experienced by callers attempting to contact the tax department. Although telephone calls were answered within an average of 12 minutes, enquiries to HMRC’s “Where’s My Reply?” department left some taxpayers having to wait for up to seven months for a reply.

One landlord seems to have fared especially poorly and Landlord Today suggests it amounts to unfair treatment. The landlord in question is being promised a tax rebate by one department at HMRC while another wing of the same organisation is chasing her with allegations that there remains outstanding tax to be paid.

November price drop reported by Rightmove

A story in Housing Today earlier this week paints a picture of the rollercoaster performance of house prices – which recorded a dip of 0.6% during the past month, on the immediate heels of a hefty 1.8% increase just the month before.

Indeed, the recent fall in average house prices is the first there has been since August (which marked the end of the Stamp Duty holiday that had been in place since July 2020) and the biggest drop in prices since this January.

Despite the drop, house prices are still an impressive 6.3% higher than they were at this time in 2020, says Housing Today, citing online listings website Rightmove.

Fast fibre seen as top homebuyer priority

The results of a recent BBC survey of nearly three hundred estate agents nationwide found that access to fast, fibreoptic broadband is one of the top priorities for homebuyers.

Buyers’ enquiries about “full fibre” connection to the internet are now 69% more frequent than they were before the pandemic.

Almost a quarter (23%) of those house-hunters are looking for connection speeds of 1Gbps. But even the 34% of buyers who want speeds of at least 300Mbps, are prepared to pay a premium of up to £5,000 on the purchase price of a desired property.

The current ranking of buyers’ priorities, therefore, is:

  • the size of the property – important to 23% of buyers;
  • the speed of the broadband connection – 20%;
  • the number of bedrooms in the home – 18%;
  • the age of the property – 10%; and
  • access to good transport links – 9%.

Rent increases hit 13-year high

Online listings website, Zoopla, on the 10th of November revealed the significant impact of demand for rental accommodation in major city centres, prompting rent increases that have hit their highest peak since 2008.

The surge in rent levels has been achieved mainly in the central zones of cities, with the typical cost of renting now hitting more than £800 a month – or 6% higher than they were this time last year.

Over the past five years, the demand for homes to rent has risen by an average 43%, according to Zoopla, while the availability of homes in the private rented sector is down by 43%.

Citing the same study, City AM reported that in the year to September, private sector rents across London have risen by an average of 4.6% - approximately £968 a month – and the strongest rate of growth for 14 years.

Nevertheless, the capital continues to lag somewhat behind the rest of the country where average rents (excluding London) have increased by 6% during the same period.

In London – as across the rest of the country, of course – the principal reason for these rents increases is the significant imbalance between strong demand and relatively weak supply.

The region registering the fastest rental growth in the third quarter of 2021 was in the Southwest - up by 9% annually. Rents in Purbeck, Dorset had the highest rate of rental growth at 16.2% annually.