Downsizing: will stamp duty affect you?

In the past few years, a number of efforts have been made to help first-time buyers enter the housing market.

But relatively little attention has been given to another group that face the challenges of high costs and a lack of suitable properties - those looking to move to a smaller home in retirement.

Recent research from over-50s insurer Saga found that a quarter of its members who would like to downsize cannot afford the costs of doing so.

To help this group, Saga called for the introduction of a new tax relief that would allow one stamp duty-free move for those who are downsizing - a measure 73% of its members are firmly in favour of.

A tax cut for older homeowners could be a controversial move, as many are likely to have built up significant equity in their homes following a sustained period of house price growth since the 1990s.

However, Saga argues that the relief would benefit the housing market as a whole, increasing liquidity and freeing up family-size homes for the next generation.

Jeff Bromage, managing director at Saga Money, said:

"More needs to be done to help free up more family homes to the market in order to continue the supply of first homes.

"We are urging the Government to reconsider this exemption - to support potential downsizers, their families and the wider housing market."

How do property taxes affect downsizers?

Under current stamp duty rules, there is no special relief for people looking to downsize in retirement.

Instead, the normal rates for residential property will apply. These are different depending on where in the UK you're purchasing a home.

In England and Northern Ireland, homeowners pay stamp duty land tax ranging from 2% to 12% on various portions of residential sales worth more than £125,000.

In Scotland, land and buildings transaction tax is similarly levied on portions of sales, starting at £145,000 - or £175,000 for a first home.

Meanwhile, homeowners in Wales pay land transaction tax on amounts starting at £180,000.

The main stamp duty rates for England and Northern Ireland are as follows.

For more detailed information regarding property taxes in Scotland or Wales, don't hesitate to get in touch.

Stamp duty rates in England & Northern Ireland

Residential property price Rate
Up to £125,000 Nil
Above £125,000 to £250,000 2%
Above £250,000 to £925,000 5%
 Above £925,000 to £1.5 million 10%
 Above £1.5m 12%
 Source: GOV.UK 

Tax breaks for first-time buyers

Saga says its proposed relief for downsizers could take a similar form to the measures that have already been brought in for people buying their first home.

In November 2017, the Government introduced tax relief for first-time buyers in England and Northern Ireland, meaning those paying £300,000 or less to secure a mortgage for their first home do not have to pay stamp duty.

First-time buyers purchasing a home for between £300,000 and £500,000 pay 5% tax on the amount above £300,000.

Purchases of more than £500,000 are subject to the normal stamp duty rates.

HMRC statistics show 288,300 first-time buyers have benefitted from the relief since its introduction, saving an estimated total of £680 million.

Speak to us about stamp duty.