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Michael Gove has mooted bringing back the controversial home information packs. Jeremy Leaf, the principal of Jeremy Leaf & Co, told The Times that he recently spoke to Mr Gove about them: ‘I said: ‘Don’t go there, for heaven’s sake’. It’s a way of stopping gazumping or gazundering, but the market isn’t in that state now. We can’t lose sight of the fact that there aren’t enough transactions at the moment. We don’t want to do anything that makes people think twice about putting their homes on the market.’
Ahead of the general election, the main political parties have released their mainfestos. Commenting on the Tories’ social care proposals, Jeremy Leaf told The Times: ‘Presumably some form of equity release or loan arrangement will have to be negotiated and repaid, which does sound a bit like a death tax. The change may result in more, rather than fewer, people selling or renting if costs prove prohibitive.’ Meanwhile, some estate agents have blamed the general election for a slowdown in transactions. Jeremy Leaf told The Daily Mail: ‘A lot of people may be using [the general election] as an excuse for the general weakness in the market, caused not just by the election but Brexit uncertainty and reductions in affordability and inflation concerns. These things are just as relevant, if not more so.’
The number of residential property transactions in the UK fell by 22.5 per cent between March and April, according to HMRC. Jeremy Leaf told BBC News: ‘At first glance, one might think these figures are hugely disappointing, but when you consider what was happening this time last year and what has happened to property transactions in the past few months, they represent steady progress for the housing market.’ He added in This is Money: ‘What the HMRC figures do show is the huge impact that changes to stamp duty can have, not just on property transactions but the wider economy bearing in mind how many people are dependent in other trades on people moving home.’
Mortgage approvals fell to a six-month low in March, according to the Bank of England. Jeremy Leaf explained in The Times: ‘The market is behaving quite cautiously, partly to do with Brexit and the general election, with people very nervous about taking on extra debt unless they are sure about the outcome.’
Rents in London have fallen for the first time since 2009, according to HomeLet. The number of completed house sales also fell. Jeremy Leaf told The Times: ‘Expectations among buyers and sellers are lower. Unless they recognize that realism, they are not going to be successful.’
The Halifax house price index reveals that house prices fell by 0.2 per cent in the past quarter. Jeremy Leaf told The Independent: ‘We are quite encouraged that the annual level is still above where it was this time last year, bearing in mind the huge increase in demand ahead of the introduction of the 3 per cent stamp duty surcharge last April.’
The buy-to-let market is also experiencing a slowdown as landlords borrowed £900 million for house purchases in March, a 79.5 per cent decrease compared with March 2016, according to the Council of Mortgage Lenders. Jeremy Leaf said in The Daily Express: ‘Realistic buyers and sellers are getting on with their business. Putting these and other figures into perspective, we are finding on the ground that those prepared to be realistic are buying whereas those who have not yet come to terms with changing market conditions are staying put.’