Homeowners with property to sell, pub landlords, café owners and restaurateurs will all, no doubt, be keeping everything crossed in the hope that Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s efforts to revive the flagging consumer economy will pay dividends.
“Eat out to help out” will see everyone able to get 50% off the price of a meal out, up to £10 per head, at participating restaurant on Mondays to Wednesdays. In addition, a cut in VAT from 20% to just 5% to support the hospitality and tourism sectors will be in place from next Wednesday until 12 January next year, which will cut prices on eat-in and hot food takeaways from restaurants, cafes and pubs as well as tickets to cinemas, theme parks, zoos and the cost of holiday accommodation at hotels, campsites, caravan parks and B&Bs.
Then there is the immediate stamp duty cut, which should prove to be a much-needed shot in the arm for buyers, sellers and housebuilders alike in the months to come. Anecdotally it seems the lockdown has had cooped-up Brits googling ‘properties with gardens’ and ‘outside space’ in their droves. And the first tentative month since the property market reopened for viewings shows there has been a surge in homes going ‘under offer’.
Whether today’s measures will truly kick-start the wider residential property market remains to be seen. But sellers and construction companies will hope so. With big savings to be made, with the abolition of stamp duty on all properties worth up to £500,000 in England and Northern Ireland completed on between now and 31 March next year, the timing of the pandemic lockdown, which kicked in just as the property market traditionally reawakens in the spring, will - it is widely hoped - jump back into action. The average stamp duty bill will fall by £4,500 and as many as nine out of every 10 buyers will not pay any stamp duty at all during this period, according to Number 10.
The big question, of course, is whether all this will be enough to get the economy moving. A lack of consumer confidence could still hang over the property sector in 2020 and into next spring, especially as future jobs security is unclear, a recession is on the agenda and people’s long-term finances remain under threat.
A familiar picture has emerged since the hospitality industry made its first fledgling steps back to normality at the weekend. It seems the appetite to go out and eat, drink and be merry is there, but so too is a sizeable helping of caution. Not just fear of catching the virus, but also concerns about finances and job security, as well.
The pandemic has brought large parts of the economy to a standstill and billions of pounds has already been spent - and more will now be spent - to encourage it to bounce back.
If 2020 has taught us one thing, it is that being prepared for the unexpected is so important. The uncertainty created by the pandemic has left so many aspects of our lives up in the air. Investing as you would do in ‘normal times’ can feel at odds with what is going on around us at the moment.
That is why carrying on investing and keeping your post-pandemic plans intact is vital. The knowledge that one day normal life will resume and you will be poised ready to pick up where you left off, is not only reassuring but also gives you back some control.
The Chancellor’s message was not on saving but on spending, but we all have to make sure our plans are not derailed by the events of 2020 so far. If you are a little hesitant about investing this year you are not alone. Market volatility is one reason why investors tend to hold back from investing during times of uncertainty. However, as we have seen time and again, if you are investing for the longer-term, that gives investments, like your workplace pension, plenty of time to grow and iron out any ups and downs in the stock market. And a good way to take advantage of those ups and downs is to invest steadily and consistently. Ready for the future - whatever that may hold.
The value of investments and the income from them, can go down as well as up, so you may get back less than you invest. Investors should note that the views expressed may no longer be current and may have already been acted upon. This information is not a personal recommendation for any particular investment. If you are unsure about the suitability of an investment you should speak to an authorised financial adviser.