Preparation is key!
Buyers who want to take advantage of the Government's stamp duty holiday need to get a move on or they will miss out on the tax break which is worth up to £15,000. Although March 31 sounds a long way away the explosion in demand sparked by the 'holiday' has slightly backfired. The sheer volume of buyers and sellers means that delays are endemic.
Rightmove estimates that there are 650,000 sales going through in the UK right now which is 67 per cent more than in November last year.
There is a significant backlog in arranging mortgages, valuations and conveyancing, which may make the move before the stamp duty holiday expires impossible. Pressure is already being put on Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, to extend the holiday. Whatever, with expectations duly managed, buyers and sellers can at least put themselves in the best possible position to get their deal across the line by the end of March.
How to best prepare
Make sure you are as fully prepared as possible in terms of your mortgage, surveyor and any other necessary borrowings. Ideally, you would also have no chain or one as short as possible - perhaps purchasing a new-build home via Help to Buy, which will improve your chances of meeting the deadline.
Being in a long property chain often slows transactions. Chain free or new homes tend to go through the process faster. If you find you are unable to decide between two properties, the one to go for will be one that has as short a chain as possible so not to risk any breaks in the chain.
A good and proactive solicitor is imperative. Get all your documentation ready: proof of identity, wage slips (or audited accounts if you are freelance or self-employed) and bank statements. Choose and apply for a mortgage immediately, even if you don't have a property in mind yet. Getting a mortgage offer in principle means you are as ready as you can be.
Being proactive is important. Keeping in regular contact with both your agent and solicitor is crucial - the smoothest transactions are those where everyone is working together. While it might be tempting to chase your team up on an hourly basis this can be counterproductive. A regular, but not ridiculous, level of contact is best.
What if you miss the deadline?
If you miss the deadline there is no need for despair - some pundits think you may actually be better off waiting. Sure, your Stamp Duty bill is presently scheduled to return in April, but as demand inevitably slackens and the market cools you might be able to negotiate a better deal on your new home and level up that way.
Time will tell, but our present advice for those who want to complete their purchase before March the 31st - Time is of the essence, get your skates on and don’t hang about!