Homebuyers looking to take advantage of the stamp duty holiday extension in England and Northern Ireland will have two dates in mind.
The tax relief on property purchases up to the value of £500,000 ends on 30 June 2021 when the tax-free threshold drops to £250,000 until 30 September 2021.
From 1 October 2021, stamp duty will return to its pre-pandemic levels meaning a percentage of land tax is required on all property purchases costing over £125,000.
In Wales, the land transaction tax break on the first £250,000 of a property runs until 30 June 2021 before normal stamp duty rates apply once more from 1 July 2021.
Scotland ended the land and buildings transaction tax holiday on 31 March 2021.
Here Abigail Fairley, legal counsel at online mortgage company Habito, talks through the best ways to avoid any stamp duty deadline drama...
‘It can take longer than you think’
Buying a home can take longer than you think and every day is valuable right now, lots of people are trying to meet the first deadline of 30 June.
There's been lots of reports in the media about homebuyers experiencing delays and backlogs for searches, surveys and solicitors.
The on-going worry is of course about not making the stamp duty holiday deadline, but there are a few things you can do, to give yourself the best chance of completing in time.
Firstly, if you’re buying, then instruct your solicitors BEFORE having an offer accepted. Solicitors are already incredibly busy, but there is lots of admin and form filling you can get done in advance, so when offers are accepted you can hit the ground running.
Respond to your solicitors requests for information and documents straight away - buyers often say they want to move quickly but then take time to do this, which causes delays!
If you’re still not sure how to pick a solicitor, keep in mind that they don’t have to be local to you, as many now work online. At the very least, ask them what their availability is like over the summer, so you know they’re not overwhelmed with new instructions and yours is simply being added to a huge pile.
If you’re selling, then consider carefully the options of the offers you get. For example, is your buyer chain free and if not, how many other parties are involved? Long chains tend to slow things down and if you’re in the position where you have competing offers from different buyers - choosing a lower offer from someone who’s chain-free could be the difference between making the completion deadline and not.
Communicate! There are lots of parties involved in a transaction - make sure you speak to your solicitor throughout, they are duty bound to look after your interests. Misinformation can lead to incredible stress in these high-pressured, time-bound sales. You could also think about opening a dialogue with your sellers. It always helps to build a connection and chances are they want their sale to go through as smoothly as you do.
Don’t put off your completion. Sometimes buyers are given the option to dictate their exchange and completion dates - either to a date that suits them, to happen on the same date or 1-2 weeks apart. For the full relief from Stamp Duty Tax you need to have completed by 30 June 2021, or for half the relief, by 30 September 2021 (not just exchanged). So firstly, make sure you keep this date in mind, secondly know the difference between exchanging and completing, and thirdly, if you’re offered a choice of date - take the earliest one to be safe and give yourself contingency time in case anything happens.
As easy as it is to say, try your best not to stress about it. It can be horrible to feel powerless in this situation, but if you’re doing everything in your power to respond to any requests of you and your time, and turn-around your required paperwork without delay, there’s little more you can do but let everyone crack on. Don’t hound the parties involved in the transactions as they will be trying their best, but do feel empowered to check in on progress if you’ve not had an update for a while.