Bungalow shortage: Pensioners stuck in downsizing blocker as not enough bungalows built

Bungalow shortage: Pensioners stuck in downsizing blocker as not enough bungalows built

Britons discussing house prices and getting on the property ladder

Anna Barry

By Anna Barry

Published: 01/03/2024

- 15:21

Updated: 01/03/2024

- 18:06

Stamp Duty may deter Britons from moving to smaller homes

Many Britons make the decision to downsize as they get older. A large home often feels unnecessary once children have flown the nest, and stairs can become increasingly difficult to manage with age.

However, with bungalows becoming hard to come by - and the added stress of pricey Stamp Duty - older Britons may find relocating to a smaller place more trouble than it's worth.

Jonathan Rolande, property expert and founder of House Buy Fast, told GB News: "Construction of bungalows has hit an 80-year low. Although there is huge demand for them, developers see them as an unviable use of precious, limited space.

"Downsizers are faced with a choice of flats, often with high maintenance bills and new houses that don’t give many benefits to downsizing."

Older couple looking at their large house

'Older homeowners aren't being tempted to move'


The property expert also explained that Stamp Duty - a tax applied when you buy a property or land over a certain price in England and Northern Ireland - can make downsizing less appealing.

Rolande suggested that "eye-watering" Stamp Duty could potentially deter homeowners from taking the plunge.

He said: "Stamp Duty – or Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) as it is now known - was introduced in the 1690s to fund wars abroad. Paid by the purchaser when a property sells, it now brings in billions of pounds each year in tax.

"There are some exemptions - first-time buyers for example, rarely pay it in full.

"But given recent increases in property prices, the amounts due can be eye-watering. For a purchaser lucky enough to be buying a home in central London, the average price paid is £1.7million. The buyer would face a Stamp Duty bill of £115,000.

"Not only does SDLT bring in useful income for the Government, it can also be used to manipulate the market. First-time buyers are almost exempt to give them a leg-up on the property ladder. Conversely, foreign buyers and second homeowners are discouraged by additional levies. Using the example above, a foreign owner buying to let the same property would pay over £200,000.

"Of course, most people are not spending quite as much but its effects are still punitive.

"Older Britons who wish to move to something smaller are faced with a hefty charge. Buying at £370,000 will cost £6,000 in Stamp Duty. Factor in estate agent’s fees, solicitors and removals and it would cost a pensioner up to £15,000 to move to something smaller.

Bungalow in the UK

Despite 'huge demand', construction of bungalows has 'hit an 80-year low'


"Many look at the costs versus, for example, employing a gardener or cleaner for their existing home. £15,000 would cover a lot of additional help. The result? Hundreds of thousands of homes are under-occupied, helping to fuel the housing crisis.

"In many cases, even if money isn’t a prime consideration, older homeowners aren’t being tempted to move. Very few bungalows are being built – most new homes are flats and small houses that don’t appeal to many."

The expert suggested that Stamp Duty is a contentious issue. While it is a "very useful tool that can be used to steer the market", it is "both carrot and stick".

Rolande said: "It should not be abolished, but it should be adapted to prompt wavering downsizers to move, helping to free up supply.

"But make no mistake, this would be politically tricky. Many hard-pressed younger voters might wonder why tax breaks are being given to already property-rich homeowners. It will take strong leadership to set out the reasons why this would be beneficial. I hope that those in Government can see the bigger picture, even if many voters potentially cannot."

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