The introduction of the government’s stamp duty holiday scheme has had a significant positive impact on the housing market but there is now speculation about what happens when this popular scheme begins to wind down from June onwards and the effect it will have on buyers’ behaviour and the market.
Why was the stamp duty holiday scheme introduced?
In July 2020 the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, announced that the government would temporality increase the lower limit from where stamp duty on property purchases would be paid to £500,000. This measure was taken to boost the housing market, which had been hit dramatically by the first lockdown, and to support buyers whose finances were badly affected by lockdown.
The scheme has been a success; 2020 saw the busiest October for a decade for residential transactions, and house prices were boosted, with Nationwide reporting a year-on-year growth rate in average house prices of 5%, a new record. It created such high demand that in the March budget, the Chancellor announced the scheme would be extended to June 2021, tapering back to normal stamp duty levels in September of this year.
What is likely to happen when the party ends?
After such a success, concerns were raised that the end of the stamp duty holiday, initially planned for March 2021, would create a dramatic drop off in the housing market. With the extension to the scheme there’s some relief, but many feel it only delays the inevitable and could see some negative consequences:
• A decline in buyer interest: RICS survey found buyer inquiries fell sharply in Feb 2021, leading to the original end of the stamp duty holiday.
• A drop in house prices: Nationwide reported signs that prices have started to fall for the first time in six months.
• Sales missing the stamp duty deadline: More sales will miss the new deadline as existing sales still struggle to be processed and new ones are added to the high workload
• Buyers pulling out of deals: If purchases can’t be completed by the deadline because they haven’t budgeted for the additional stamp duty.
The end of the stamp duty holiday is likely to see a levelling off in demand and a return to more normal timescales to complete transactions. Although some believe that house prices will decline, February 2021 saw them continue to be strong, even with the original end date of the stamp duty looming.
What will happen at the end of the stamp duty holiday remains uncertain. However, we are heading into spring and summer, traditionally busy times for the housing market. And as we continue to emerge gradually from lockdown, optimism may stay high and the market resilient. Whatever happens, we will be keeping a close eye on the market over the months to come.
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