What is staircasing?
Staircasing is an option if you own a Shared Ownership property. It’s where you buy a bigger share of the property, increasing the proportion of it that you own and reducing the proportion owned by the housing association or developer. You can staircase in increments, or in one lump sum, until you own the whole property outright.
Read more about Shared Ownership.
Why is it a good idea to staircase?
Staircasing is entirely optional, and it’s up to you to decide whether it’s right for you. If you can afford it, there are significant advantages – it will mean you can pay less rent every month (or none at all, if you staircase to 100% ownership, although you may still need to pay ground rent and service charges if you’re not buying the freehold). Owning more of your property also gives you greater security, and will mean you’ll benefit more from rising house prices. Owning your property outright will also mean there are more mortgage options (as you won’t need to find one offering Shared Ownership mortgages) and it will also make the process easier if you decide to sell your Shared Ownership property.
What costs do I need to consider?
For obvious reasons, the fees associated with staircasing are less than what you’d pay if you were moving home completely. Things like legal fees will be less as you don’t need searches, and you won’t need to worry about removal costs.
But, along with the deposit you’ll need to actually purchase the larger share, there are four other key things you’ll need to budget for:
Each time you staircase you’ll need to get an up-to-date market valuation for the property, so the housing association or developer knows how much to charge you for the extra percentage you want to buy. This is very important as the value of the property may have changed since you last got it valued, especially if that was a number of years ago.
A Shared Ownership valuation is carried out by a Chartered Surveyor. They’ll visit your property and give an estimated figure based on the condition, features and location.
All of our Chartered Surveyors are regulated by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveys (RICS) – you can get quotes and compare prices and reviews by vising our Shared Ownership Valuation quote form.
Bear in mind that, if you’re not planning on staircasing to 100% yet, a valuation might have an impact on how much your rent is in future. Find out more about how a Shared Ownership valuation might impact your property.
Stamp Duty Land tax is a tax paid on property transactions in England.
Unless you paid the full Stamp Duty bill when you bought the original share (known as a ‘market value election’) then you might need to pay it to staircase. It depends how much you’re staircasing to.
When you bought your original share of the property, you’ll have paid some Stamp Duty on it as long as the proportion you bought cost more than the threshold of £125,000 (unless you were a First Time Buyer). If you bought a share of the property that cost less than this then you won’t have paid any, although you’ll still have had to fill out a return form for HMRC.
From then, no matter how many times you staircase, you won’t pay any more Stamp Duty until you own more than 80% of the property.
So if you’re staircasing to anything below than 80%, you don’t need to pay Stamp Duty, and you also don’t need to tell HMRC about the transactions in a Stamp Duty return form.
Once the share of the property that you own goes above 80%, you’ll need to fill in a return and pay Stamp Duty on both the transaction that took you over 80%, as well as any subsequent transactions.
You can read more about Stamp Duty and staircasing on the government website.
Staircasing counts as a property transaction and so you’ll need a Conveyancing Solicitor or a Licensed Conveyancer to carry out the legal work relating to it. The cost of this will depend on the portion you’re buying as well as things like location and the firm you decide to go with.
Read more about conveyancing.
It’s likely that you’ll need a mortgage to help you buy the next portion. You have two options – extend your existing mortgage or remortgage with a different firm.
Both will likely have fees associated with them, which will depend on things like the firm and the amount you’re staircasing by. If you decide to remortgage, there may well be arrangement fees, for example to cover the cost of the mortgage valuation. You can ask your existing mortgage lender what the costs would be of extending your existing mortgage. But don’t be afraid to remortgage and shop around a bit if you think it might be cheaper.
Bear in mind, it’s worth waiting until your fixed rate mortgage term has come to an end, so you won’t pay exit fees. If you know in advance you’re planning to staircase, chat with your mortgage broker, who can advise you on the ideal amount you could staircase by, and what options are available in the mortgage market.
We work with Mortgage Advice Bureau, who offer free advice to reallymoving users.
How much does staircasing cost?
The Homeowners Alliance says that the average cost of staircasing (minus the actual deposit for the new share) is about £2,000. But this can vary massively depending on location, property type, the amount you’re staircasing by and whether you’ve already paid the necessary Stamp Duty.
It's important to budget very carefully before staircasing – it can be a great way of increasing your investment in a property and saving money on rent, but there are considerable costs associated with it and you need to be sure you can afford it.
You can make staircasing cheaper by using reallymoving to shop around for surveyors and conveyancers, to make sure you’re not paying more than you need.