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“Stop-gap” sales, HMRC eyes Airbnb, Help to Buy, House Price Index for June, and Wales sees fastest rise in house prices

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An unusually active housing market has prompted a rash of so-called “stop-gap” sales. And while staycations may have been a boon to Airbnb owners, they have also caught the attention of HM Revenue & Customs.

These are just two of the notable property news headlines in recent days …

A tenth of UK homes rented in July were to 'stop-gap' home sellers

The runaway demand for homes among those looking to move, combined with a widespread shortage of homes for onward buyers, has forced many previous homeowners to rent accommodation while they search for a house to buy.

The plight of these so-called “stop-gap” renters was highlighted by a story in the Mail Online on the 17th of August which revealed that one in every ten homes let to tenants in July were to homebuyers who had sold their previous home and were still searching for a new one.

Although they are likely to have achieved a record high price for the home they just sold, the shortage of houses on the market is reflected in the fact that there are 27% fewer of them than in July last year.

But finding a stop-gap rental also has its challenges since there are estimated to be 43% fewer homes available to let than in July of 2020 as shorter-term renters compete with longer-term tenants in the restricted rental market.

HMRC watching for landlords using Airbnb for events

A story published in Landlord Today on the 19th of August suggests that HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) are fully aware of the lucrative opportunities for those landlords turning to Airbnb lettings for a quick boost to their incomes.

Opportunities for earning that income from short-term Airbnb lets increase many times over in towns and cities where a major conference or convention is taking place – and the story mentions the upcoming COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, scheduled for the first two weeks in November.

Existing landlords, together with those taking advantage of the prospects for earning extra cash, must be aware that their income has to be declared to the inland revenue. The story warns that HMRC has recently reached an agreement with Airbnb for the latter to provide it with the names and addresses of all landlords who listed their property to let via the platform.

Record numbers use government's Help to Buy scheme

The publicly-funded Help to Buy equity loan scheme remains a popular way of getting a foot on the housing ladder. The scheme has attracted a record 55,649 buyers in the 12 months to the end of this March – a total of 328,506 buyers since the scheme was launched in April 2013.

Reporting these statistics on the 17th of August, the online listings website Zoopla commented that 82% of all Help to Buy loans were to first-time buyers – and that new loans are now restricted to this group of buyers only (and up to set limits).

The scheme allows first-time buyers in England to buy a newly-built home with a deposit of just 5% of the purchase price, with the government topping up the buyer’s borrowing with a 5-year, interest-free equity loan of up to 20% of the property’s market value. For homes bought in London, the interest-free loan can be up to 40% of the purchase price of the property.

UK House Price Index for June 2021

The UK House Price Index for June 2021 was published by the Land Registry on the 18th of August.

For the UK as a whole, the figures revealed that house prices have increased by 4.5% since May – an annual increase in the year to the end of June of 13.3% - to a current average of £265,668.

The corresponding figures for the four nations were as follows:

  • England: increase since May, 4.9%, annual increase 13.3%, and current average price of £284,029;
  • Wales: increase since May, 4.6%, annual increase 16.7%, and current average price £195,291;
  • Scotland: increase since May, 2.4%, annual increase 12.0%, and current average price £173,961; and
  • Northern Ireland (statistics published quarterly): increase from Q1 to Q2, 2.9%, annual increase 9.0%, and current average price £153,449.

Rightmove: House prices in Wales rising highest

Echoing the news story above, a report on the 16th of August, the BBC cited figures released by online listings website Rightmove which confirmed that average house prices are rising highest and fastest in Wales.

Although the figures were based on a timeframe somewhat different from the latest statistics from the Land Registry, Rightmove disclosed that a record average house price in the principality had been reached earlier this year of £215,810. earlier this year.

The second quarter of this year (to the end of June) also saw record average prices in eight local authorities: Vale of Glamorgan, Torfaen, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Neath Port Talbot, Merthyr Tydfil, Conwy, Bridgend, and Blaenau Gwent.