Most first-time buyers are celebrating the removal in the Budget of the 1% stamp duty tax on their first house purchase costing up to £250,000. The stamp duty has been scrapped for two years.
According to the Council of Mortgage Lenders, 92% of first-time buyers buy properties costing less than £250,000, and these first-time buyers will save up to £2,500 when they purchase their home.
In London and the South East, however, first-time buyers are making stuffed straw versions of Alistair Darling and setting them alight with flaming torches fashioned from estate agents’ listings.
The reason is that in the South East, away from the Labour heartlands, £250,000 buys you… not half as much as in Macclesfield.
Properties in or near London costing less than £250,000
So what can first-time buyers working in London shoot for? A Wendy house? A false passport and plane ticket to Australia?
I poured myself a stiff drink and fired up FindAProperty to see.
Along the way I found some truly dire dwellings, such as:
- The crack house with a tenant/customer still in place.
- The flat where the owner is currently ‘negotiating access’.
- The house whose neighbour has not one but two mattresses in the garden.
- The ‘flexible accommodation’ in central London that consisted of a 12-foot room, and a side closet with a loo in it. (It was flexible in that you needed to be a contortionist…)
But why depress would-be first-time buyers in London even more than they’re already depressed? Especially as I am one. (Long story…)
Here instead are a few decent looking homes around London suitable for stamp duty dodging first-time buyers.
A one-bed flat in Shepherds Bush, West London
This well-presented one bedroom flat in a decent period building costs £249,950, and is situated on Askew Road – a fairly busy thoroughfare with grimy bits, on the fringes of Acton but essentially in ever almost-trendy Shepherd’s Bush. (According to the listing, Askew Road is ‘pleasant and vibey’. I stand corrected). You get 448 sq feet for your quarter million quid – the two main rooms are a reasonable size, but the kitchen is an alcove. Never mind, the new Westfield Shopping Centre down the road is full of fancy eateries. Or, says the listing, there’s Ravenscourt Park for the more ‘pastoraly inclined’. (Does that mean a member of the church?)
A two-bedroom flat in Deptford
Head south of the river to up-and-coming and only mildly dangerous Deptford and you too can live the life of a pixel-perfect 3D model from those computerised images that housebuilders create to advertise their developments. Down Deptford way you get a two-bedroom flat for your £249,950, albeit it a purple one. Never mind, it makes it easier for the locals to spot you and mug you welcome you to the area. In case you were wondering, the flat is ‘nestled between the vibrant regeneration of Deptford and the cosmopolitan lifestyle of New Cross’ – which basically translates as ‘halfway between a knocked-down council estate and a kebab shop’. But seriously, cool people do tell me Deptford is the place right now. I’d rather sleep higher than the ground floor though, whatever they say.
A two-bed house in Uxbridge
Move out to Uxbridge (that’s in Zone 6, Londoners) and this little house can be your very own castle. I’m not certain what the snag is here, except for the minor matter of Uxbridge being somewhere that would make you think twice about wasting your bombs on Slough. I love the way the agent talks about how this little terraced house is ‘set in leafy grounds’, as if you’ll have to drive down a long gravel road to your front door in a coach, with Mr Darcy trying to cop a feel of your knee. Cynicism aside, this does appear to be a reasonable starter home, though you probably didn’t expect to pay £250,000 to live in what looks suspiciously like sheltered accommodation when you left your provincial village with a pocket full of beans, big ideas, and a condom.
3-bed house in Romford
Novelists, bankers, and tramps aside, anyone not born in London eventually decamps to the dormitory towns to raise their own children who can one day be amazed at the cost of living in London for themselves. Cut out a decade and move to Romford, where you can bring up your kids as authentic Essex guys and gals, and get a great deal on chrome hubcaps. The step up in size to this 3-bed house is pretty remarkable considering Romford is as close to central London by train as Uxbridge is by tube. I don’t know much about Romford except that it has an excellent tropical fish shop – I was once mugged on a train in Stratford on my way there – but we’re assured this house is in a ‘popular turning’. Turning into what, guffaw, guffaw. Also, I don’t like the agent’s call for an ‘internal inspection’. It makes it sound like the house has worms.
A cottage in Wendover
Wendover is a pretty, happy village in Buckinghamshire that will soon be swallowed up by the less pleasant Aylesbury to the North. It’s on a cracking little train line out of Marylebone, and has all the essentials a village needs – pub, French restaurant, chocolate shop, and Citybloke’s wife’s profit-shirking art gallery. First-time buyers discovered it years ago, so don’t expect bargains. This former farm cottage has two beds and two little reception rooms. Costing £249,950, I think it looks quite sweet. And bigger through binoculars.
A two-bed flat in Brighton
Ah, Brighton – I remember when it was all pensioners and junkies as far as the eye could see. Now it’s the same, but with some trendy delis and an awful lot of ex-Londoners trying to recreate Camden and Notting Hill by the sea, and getting about as far as a duck pond in Dollis Hill. I jest, mostly. Brighton is a pleasant if slightly violent seaside city, with a center full of creative and attractive young people, fringed by criminal and tattooed ones (and that’s just the schoolgirls, etc etc). Still, where else in the South East would first-time buyers get to live in a swanky Regency flat within a stone’s throw of the ocean – or indeed, within a stone’s throw of a stone thrower. (I’m only making fun of Brighton dwellers because I’m secretly jealous of their pseudo-San Franciscan lifestyle. And their rock).
Conclusion: First-time buyers can buy for under £250,000
Yes, even in the South East. Much as I’ve been a bit silly in my commentary above, these six properties look reasonable options for first-time buyers – just so long as you don’t insist ‘reasonable’ means ‘worth £250,000 of hard cash in a way your grandparents would have recognised as value for money’.
Finally, I wouldn’t hang about if you’re determined to buy and you want to avoid paying over the odds.
The not-so-unintended consequence of the Chancellor’s generosity towards first-time buyers could be a sharp rise in the price of houses approaching the £250,000 barrier, as all the good cheaper ones get snapped up.