All is not as it seems…

…Part 1. Last week in Wales, a major news item almost slipped under the radar and certain parties were pretty close to buttock clenching, “We got away with that one” territory. Except they didn’t. If one casts one’s mind back to pre-Nadiya Strictly Come Prancing (sorry, Flavia, you had your chance, you’re history), one might recall that the Welsh Assembly (WA) effected that stamp duty land tax was to be renamed ‘land transaction tax’. What was not made so clear was that they also took it upon themselves to change the rates and as a result, some people will end up paying more than  under the previous structure.

Finance Secretary Mark Drakeford said: “The devolution of tax powers provides us with the opportunity to reshape and make changes to improve existing taxes to better meet Wales’ needs and priorities. I have always been clear that we will use these powers to help improve fairness and support jobs and economic growth in Wales. These new progressive rates and bands for land transaction tax and landfill disposals tax will make a real difference to people’s lives; help change behaviours and deliver improvements to communities across Wales”. Ok Marky boy. As Lloyd used to say, “Let’s look at the evidence”. At the bottom end the threshold has been raised from £125,000 to £150,000 , i.e. £25,000. At 2% that is a saving of £500 which will help by going towards the survey fee and some legal costs. A quick peak at rightmove shows that currently there are 37 houses on the market in NP44 between £125k and £150k. So potentially, that’s 37 people who will save a maximum of £500 if they wait until April next year to purchase a property. Hardly a ‘real difference’. There are far more significant changes the higher one goes up the property ladder, especially if one is looking to buy at over £400k and the the next threshold of £750k. As the rate increase form 5% to 7.5%, the potential maximum increase of £8750 is a ‘real difference’. What effect will the new system produce? I predict that there will be an attempt at a frenzy-whipping-up exercise by some agents who will urge vendors to,”Sell your house before you are affected by the new tax” or possibly, “Thinking of moving? Then contact us now to see how much it will cost you after April 2018, so buy now”. The leaflet printers in Cwmbran must be rubbing their hands with glee.

All is not as it seems…Part 2. Be careful to whom you offer your keys and I don’t mean one of those clubs who have pampas grass in their garden (you know who you are). A former lettings agent has been jailed after pretending that he was still a lettings agent (there is a cheap joke in there about some agents who are still genuinely employed as lettings agent in NP44… but I don’t want to be a bee–atchhh…). Having persuaded a string of top firms to hand over keys for fake viewings, Ben Ppantoniou then used the keys to get into the properties whilst the owners were out and helped himself to money and various other items including jewellery. The agents that were conned into handing over keys included Knight Frank, Foxtons, Chestertons and Kinleigh Folkard and Hayward. All have now made significant changes to their procedures for releasing keys. I bet they have.