It was very encouraging to learn of the PM’s ‘Roadmap’ for getting us out of lockdown. If the data remains as positive as it has been this last two or three weeks, the dates proposed for a gradual ‘unlocking’ should be honoured. We will, hopefully, then see a gradual return to something-like the life we once knew. No doubt, there will be some modifications to how we go about our business and personal lives, but I’m sure it’s something we can adapt to.
I was further encouraged on Monday when speculation started circling in our industry about the Stamp Duty Land Tax Holiday being extended. I had almost given up on this happening. I’ve been campaigning for an extension for some time but the comments made directly to me by our local MP and by Government Ministers in the press, along with the feedback our governing body, Propertymark, has been giving us following their direct talks with the Housing Minister, it wasn’t looking hopeful. It would now appear that Mr Sunak is going to extend the ‘holiday’, until the end of June apparently, in line with the unlocking date in June and running alongside the date for furlough to end – not that the two are interlinked in any shape or form!
Anyone not trying to buy a property at this moment may find this annoying or gratuitous, considering where the tax raised from Stamp Duty could be spent or invested at this time. But this is undoubtedly excellent news for the many families currently trying to move home but who are stuck in chains, or having to cope with delays. Many of the delays we are seeing are unavoidable – builders behind schedule due to Covid19; lawyers inundated with conveyancing but having to cope with staff working from home; surveyors and valuers unable to access properties where occupiers are isolating, etc.
At Moores, we only have a small number of clients who would have potentially been affected by the 31st March ‘cliff-edge’. However, we are but one estate agency office out of around 21,000 estate agents offices in England. If all the offices have only a handful of sales teetering on the edge of collapse due to the 31st March deadline, the number of transactions overall exceeds 100,000. With a family being the seller or buyer for most property transactions (one way or another) that would now see 200,000 families now relieved they have some breathing space to be able to complete their sale or purchase, at the agreed price. I read somewhere that the estimate was nearer to 300,000, which I can easily believe. Death, divorce and moving home are the three most stressful events in people’s lives, in that order. We’ve had more than enough of the first over the past 12 months. I suspect lockdown will have caused quite a few of the second. If Mr Sunak can take the pressure off the third, even for only 200,000 families at this time, I welcome that.
So, we have no cliff-edge at the end of March and the opportunity to sell a few more properties in the next month that may just be able to complete by the end of June. Or am I looking at this too simplistically? One thing I have learned over my nearly 42 years as an estate agent in Headingley is that the ‘devil is in the detail’. Let’s see exactly what Mr Sunak has to say next Wednesday. His Stamp Duty Land Tax Holiday was not really intended to benefit second home buyers, or buy-to-let investors, but with the necessity to do something to help stimulate the economy quickly last summer he introduced this ‘holiday’ across all residential properties. Will he be ‘kind’ to those who can (relatively) easily afford the tax to have yet another 12 weeks or so to take advantage and save even more money? I’m not so sure.
I like what I’m hearing from the press and our industry sources, but I’ll be happier when Mr Sunak sits down next Wednesday and we know if there are any catches to his ‘generosity’!
– A Newsletter Editorial by Director Michael Moore FNAEA, MARLA.