Moving house during a boom and a pandemic

The UK housing market is experiencing a strange double whammy. On the one hand, the ever-present threat of local lockdown and coronavirus will cause stress and uncertainty for home movers. But on the other hand, the recently announced SDLT holiday means that the property market is booming.

The amount of SDLT paid depends on the purchase price of the property and whether the buyer owns (or has owned) any other property. The Chancellor has announced that the SDLT rates are changing. If someone buys a residential property between 8 July 2020 to 31 March 2021, they will only start to pay SDLT on the amount paid for the property above £500,000. These rates apply whether they are buying their first home or have owned property before.

This is a significant change because most property purchasers will benefit. The SDLT holiday is not limited to home owners or first-time buyers – buy to let investors and property traders will also be able to take advantage of the reduced rates.

Recently updated government advice reminds the public that they are free to move homes but all property professionals have modified how they work to reduce the risks from COVID 19. Some of the changes for the home buying and selling public are as follows:

  • Initial viewings should be done virtually wherever possible. Property agents should be able to help with this
  • Members of the public who are visiting an agent's office or viewing a property should wear a suitable face covering unless they are exempt from this requirement
  • All physical viewings where prospective buyers or renters will be entering the property should involve no more than 2 households inside the property at any one time
  • Viewings should be arranged by appointment only and 'open house' viewings should not take place

Many conveyancing firms are reporting a boom in transactions but the volume of transactions does mean that a house move may take longer. It is being reported that it is difficult to arrange a survey due to the backlog and mortgage applications are taking longer.

Thus, for anyone wishing to take advantage of the SDLT holiday, they are well advised to start the moving process very soon and instruct all professionals including their conveyancer at the earliest possible opportunity. It is fair to say that 31 March 2021 will come around very soon indeed.

To discuss this or any other property related matter, contact us.