The shortage of mortgage finance is pushing rents up, as would-be home owners are forced to rent because they cannot borrow enough money to buy.
According to the latest FindaProperty.com Rental Index, average asking rents in London rose 2.6 per cent over the past quarter and are now 6.4 per cent higher than a year ago. The number of properties available to let in London fell by 4 per cent in the last quarter alone, putting extra upward pressure on rents.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer has missed the opportunity to reform the property market in the emergency budget. The tinkering with capital gains tax, while not as damaging as we feared, will do little to help people buy the homes they need or invest in property to rent out. Meanwhile, stamp duty land tax with its market-distorting artificial bands remains in place, and the opportunity to reintroduce taper relief on investments has been missed.
Well, thankfully the rain held off and the sun shone for most of the day. Once again we set up our stall at the Marylebone Summer Fayre, not only so we could take part in this wonderful annual event but also to raise money for the nominated charity, Teenage Cancer Trust.
We gave away free Pimms in return for a donation to the charity and by mid-afternoon had used 40 litres of Pimms and nearly 200 litres of lemonade. A big thank you to all our people who gave up their precious Sunday to come and help and, of course, to everyone who 'bought' a Pimms. We're still counting the money and have our fingers crossed that it will be more than last year.
Abolition of the Home Information Pack provided a welcome fillip to the property market, but if plans to raise Capital Gains Tax goes to 40 or even 50 per cent are implemented it would smother the recovery before it even gets properly started.
Thousands of investors and second home owners who bought in the 1990s or even earlier were relaxed about the 2008 property slump because they could still look forward to a reasonable increase in the value of their assets. If CGT goes up as much as is rumoured, many will try and sell up before the rise comes into force, an increase in supply that would eliminate the gains we have seen this year.
This will benefit no one. Many amateur landlords who bought properties to fund their retirement will find they no longer have the investment pot they were expecting, and the stock of rented accommodation will shrink at a time when there is a severe housing shortage.
We recognise that taxes have to go up to get us out of the financial mess we are in, but the government must mitigate any rise in CGT either by reintroducing taper relief or by linking the gain to inflation. Taper relief, abolished by the previous government, reduced a property investor's exposure to CGT the longer they held the investment, encouraging landlords to stick with it for the long term. Indexation would not reduce CGT by as much, but would at least compensate for the reduction in a property's real value caused by inflation.
Either of those mechanisms would mean that prudent investors who have held onto their properties for the long term are shielded from the full blast of the increase. At Sandfords, we believe that the reintroduction of taper relief would encourage investors to regard property as a long-term investment rather than a short term speculation. This would be good for investors but, much more importantly, would be good for the large number of people who need rented accommodation in London.
The latest figures for construction of new homes make grim reading for people hoping to buy or rent a place this year, but property investors who have had a long period of famine can now look forward to a better future. In short, it means rents are likely to go up.
According to the Department for Communities and Local Government, Britain is building less than half the number of homes that we were in the peak in March 2007, although the trend is now on the way up. And remember that even in 2007 the housing shortage was a matter for very considerable concern.
The new government has moved surprisingly quickly to abolish Home Information Packs or HIPs, which should help to loosen up the market by allowing owners to offer their houses and apartments with the minimum of hassle and expense. The fear is that these experimental vendors will not really be serious, but at least they will help to establish a better idea of the true prices of properties in any particular area.
I am optimistic that the influx of properties that is sure to follow the abolition will help fuel the market.
If a property has not been on the market since October 2008 it will still need an Energy Performance Certificate, but these can be got quickly and cheaply (£45 seems to be the going rate) and last for 10 years, so once done it need not be repeated if the house is taken off the market for six months (as a HIP had to be).
We have kept the champagne on ice for the moment, however. If the rumours of a rise in VAT to 20 per cent are correct, this will increase the costs of property transactions by much, much more than the cost of the HIP. The only consolation will be that the huge extra tax burden will affect everyone, not just the longsuffering homeowner.
Just a few days after the election and the new government has already committed itself to abolishing the Home Information Pack or HIP.
This is good news. Although the HIP did not add significant cost or hassle to the total cost and hassle of selling a house, the need to prepare one before a property could even be placed on the market meant that nobody made experimental offerings. The result was that a vital flow of market information was throttled off.
This would have been a small price to pay if HIPs had done the job they were designed to, but the mortgage lenders refused to accept the HIP survey and forced their borrowers to do another survey and valuation. And many solicitors refused to accept the search results. The result was needless duplication, delay and extra cost.
Let's hope that the government will use the opportunity to rethink the house purchase process. The time is now ripe for an entirely online process that would be speedy, cheap and secure. The lesson we can draw from the HIP debacle is that paper documents belong to the 20th century and should be abandoned now.
If that saves a few trees in the process, that will be a welcome bonus.
A hung parliament is excellent news for the property market because in the turmoil of getting any legislation voted in it will almost certainly lose sight of two of the most damaging election manifesto proposals - the Lib Dem's 'mansion tax' and Labour's increase in stamp duty for houses worth over £1 million.
It may even fail to terminate one of the more beneficial recent measures, the tax break for first time buyers on the lowest rung of the housing ladder.
Remember Buy to Let? It was supposed to have died in the property crash, but it is back.
Now, of course, it is called the Private Rented Sector or PRS and is being touted not as a get-rich-quick scheme but as an essential market mechanism for housing people for whom home ownership is either unsuitable or financially unobtainable. Much more respectable.
The clouds of uncertainty and doubt that obscure the property market in the runup to a general election offer a great opportunity for well-financed buyers to obtain the properties they desire at unrepeatable prices.
Most househunters defer decisions until after polling day when the colour of the new government is clear, leaving the field free for buyers made of sterner stuff.