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Looming deadline for Stamp Duty Land Tax holiday

29th September 2020

This year has not exactly been the best of times for the UK housing market, with the early stages of lockdown causing the number of house sales being completed to drop by 70%.

In response, the reduced rates of Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) were introduced for the period running from 8 July 2020 to 31 March 2021.  The deadline for these reduced rates is fast approaching, and in real terms may be closer than most would think.

The SDLT ‘holiday’ saw the threshold for paying SDLT lifted from £125,000 to £500,000, which, it was estimated, would result in an average saving of £4,500 and would lead to nine out of ten home buyers not having to pay any SDLT.

It is currently assumed that the original SDLT regime will be reinstated after the 31 March 2021 deadline, with the ‘pre-holiday’ rates applying to any sale not completed by this date.

The UK housing market has staged a spectacular recovery following the reduced SDLT rates; research by Halifax, for example, found that average house prices post lockdown spiked to a new record high in June of this year, hitting a peak of £238,000.

This was followed by a rise in July, up to £241,604.  Meanwhile, the number of new properties being listed, which had slumped to below a thousand per week at the height of the lockdown restrictions, had risen to the pre-lockdown levels of February (6000-7000 per day).

This rise has been echoed in the number of properties being exchanged, which had also recovered to pre-lockdown levels. This makes for great news for the market and the economy, but may be cause for concern for those looking to squeeze their move in before the 31 March 2021 deadline.

The current backlog in conveyancing caused by the lockdown, coupled with the number of estate agents still at reduced capacity, means that the conveyancing process is taking much longer than normal.  This is particularly true in those areas experiencing high demand.

The average timescale for a house sale from listing to moving into the property, pre-COVID-19, was 187 days.  At the time of writing, there are 183 days between now and 31 March 2021. The deadline is closer than you think.

Tips for making life easier

There are a few steps that all the parties involved in the buying and selling process can do to move the transaction along more quickly and get the paperwork finalised before the deadline:

  • The seller should consider instructing their conveyancer when they list the property for sale.
  • The buyer should ensure that they have a mortgage decision in principle before making an offer, and consider instructing a conveyancer prior to the offer.
  • The seller should consider asking the conveyancer to order local, drainage and water searches, but this is assuming that the searches are either official searches or regulated searches and therefore the buyer and their lender can rely up on them under the Search Code/Authority indemnity schemes.  If possible, this can have a significant impact on transaction times.
  • With leasehold properties (such as flats), the seller should instruct their conveyancer to order LPE1/FME1 replies as soon as possible.

If all the parties to a sale and purchase work together, there is still enough time to get deals completed before the fast approaching deadline of 31 March 2021.

Appointing the right conveyancer is another key factor in delivering transactions in the timescales required.  If you would like to discuss your house purchase with our experienced conveyancing team, please get in touch with David Alexander, an Associate Solicitor here at Ansons on 01543 267195 or email dalexander@ansonssolicitors.com

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