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Remortgage approvals reached a nine-year high in November, according to the Bank of England. Commenting in The Daily Express and The Daily Mirror, Jeremy Leaf, principal of Jeremy Leaf & Co, said: ‘Looking forward, we anticipate a fairly steady market in early 2018 and no great changes one way or another, with realistic vendors much more likely to do deals rather than those who are still holding out for unrealistic prices.’
House prices rose by just £2,353 on average last year, according to the Halifax. Jeremy Leaf told The Daily Telegraph that the figures confirmed a slowdown, rather than a collapse, in the housing market and that home sellers were in for tougher negotiations this year. ‘There is no doubt that prices are softening, particularly in London, but Halifax also confirms what we are seeing on the high street – that a lot of hard bargaining is going on and people are generally trying to get on with their moves.’ He elaborated on his comments to This is Money: ‘We don’t expect to see any great change in the next few months but the realistic players will succeed, whereas those wedded to the idea of the housing market we have seen in previous years will simply not sell.’
Meanwhile, house price growth is soaring in the Midlands, while the market in London continues to cool, according to the Office for National Statistics. ‘These figures confirm what we are seeing on the ground – prices and transactions may be fairly flat but there are no signs of significant corrections in the housing market,’ Jeremy Leaf told The Independent. He expanded on these comments to ITV News: ‘While it is still early days, so far this year we have already seen considerable pent-up demand for properties – not necessarily resulting in offers but certainly plenty of interest from buyers who have their finance lined up and are keen to find more realistically-priced properties,’ he said.
Stamp duty netted the taxman a record £13bn in 2017, by far the largest take for any calendar year. Jeremy Leaf told The Daily Telegraph: ‘If you want to boost transactions and improve social mobility, one way of doing that could be to remove stamp duty. But that seems unlikely when the Revenue is taking in so much money from it. The Government will be unlikely to change something if it doesn’t feel it’s broken.’
Latest data from HMRC reveals the number of residential property transactions for December and the whole of 2017. Jeremy Leaf told The Daily Express: ‘Although the transaction numbers are broadly similar between 2016 and 2017, what HMRC’s figures hide are the regional variations between London and the South East compared with other areas of the country. Prices in the capital and surrounding areas have softened of late in response to affordability and demand, whereas outside of London, property is seen as better value.’