An interesting way to help first-timers

If boring chancellor Alistair Darling was to do anything as interesting as make sellers rather than buyers pay Stamp Duty it would help aspiring first-time buyers, says Sue Read

So we all sat through Alistair Darling’s first Budget and those among us hoping for a glimmer of light for the housing sector were disappointed.

In fact, it seems that most people were disappointed – not just those of us working in the mortgage market. Darling is dull, but anything more innovative might have been more dangerous than the safe game he played so I don’t blame him.

Nevertheless, something must happen soon to stimulate an equally dull mortgage market. The recent huge injections of funds from central banks may help, although as I write we’ve yet to see any positive moves from lenders.

Indeed, we continue to receive almost hourly newsflashes about lenders lowering their maximum LTVs or anticipating job losses.

Several Mortgage Strategy columnists have called for balanced media coverage and I’ve said the same thing myself for many months, but there seems to be little in the way of good news to mention at the moment.

Potential first-time buyers must feel abandoned. One thing the chancellor could have done for them was change the way Stamp Duty works. Not only could he have radically raised the tax’s threshold, he could have considered making it payable by sellers rather than buyers. This would have taken first-timers out of the equation.

Of course, this would also have an effect at the top of the chain as previously duty-free sellers would find themselves subject to the tax. But realistically, those at the top are more likely to be able to afford it since they are usually older and have enjoyed the benefits of house price growth for years. The total revenue to the Treasury would be the same, so there’d be no need to make up for any loss of funds.

Changing tack, an old acquaintance contacted me re-cently. John Lyte is a good equity release broker with a wealth of knowledge in his field. I respect his experience and opinions.

Anyway, Lyte had read my comments about training and this had set him thinking about the market.

We agreed that while several equity release events have been held around the country of late, they were introductory in nature and basic in content.

While such events have their place, those of us with more experience need something meatier to get our teeth into. It would be great to go along to an event that stimulated the old grey matter.

Are there any lenders, trade bodies, professional qualification organisations or, dare I say it, magazines out there wanting to organise something? I’m sure a number of us would be willing to help get such an event off the ground and even more brokers would be delighted to attend.