Andrew Lloyd, managing director of Search Acumen, comments on Land Registry privatisation and commercial property stamp duty reform:
“After being resurrected in the Autumn Statement, it’s clear that George Osborne is still set on pursuing the privatisation of Land Registry. Today’s Budget leaves us with no further clarity about the options on the table, but suggests the consultation is imminent.
“It is important this process is sufficiently transparent and takes time to consider a wide spread of views without privatisation being a foregone conclusion. The threat to the register’s integrity when in private hands has been a major source of concern for many in the conveyancing industry, and the consultation is likely to prompt a heated debate.
“Land Registry in its present form has made huge strides in commercialising its activities, including its commitment to the Open Data initiative which has provided growing access to important land and property data.
“This in turn has fuelled the development of innovative and intuitive solutions to speed up conveyancing. Last year’s Infrastructure Act has also been a further step towards centralising access to local authority data, which aims to improve on the convenience and turnaround times for searches.
“Looming privatisation may cast a shadow over these recent developments and the long term plans that Land Registry has already set in motion.
“In the meantime, many in the commercial property market stand to benefit from changes to the stamp duty system, with the slab system abolished for offices, shops and industrial spaces as it was for residential transactions over a year ago.
“Stamp duty reform for businesses could help to stimulate the lower end of the commercial market, with the government claiming 90% of businesses will pay the same or less. However, higher value commercial property sales will now be hit by a stamp duty increase which may have an effect on the top end of the commercial market.”