The industry must prepare home buyers for stamp duty holiday disappointment, says O’Neill Patient

O’Neill Patient LLP (ONP) is calling on the industry to work together during this extremely busy time as the end of the stamp duty holiday looms ever closer.

The conveyancer says it is important to manage buyers’ expectations as the chance of completing transactions before the stamp duty holiday cut-off date for some buyers is slim, especially for buyers purchasing property since the beginning of the year.

ONP is being realistic with its clients and has been quoting the stamp duty charge in its new client documentation for buyers since the end of last year. This is to prepare them for the possibility they may have to find extra money they have not budgeted for.

The widespread calls for the government to extend the stamp duty break or taper its end still has no resolution so it’s safer to assume the government’s deadline of 31 March will not be extended. If the government does extend by the mooted six weeks, we won’t know this until into March and, therefore, this does little to help the impending deadline and merely adds newer buyers into the race to beat the cut-off. The holiday was introduced to stimulate the market after the first Covid-19 lockdown last year and it has certainly achieved its aim, with the unexpected consequences.

With the huge number of house sales going through the system, the industry is struggling to cope with this unprecedented demand. From valuations to mortgages, conveyancing and searches, the pressure is immense. It is made even more difficult as many firms are short staffed with illness, home schooling challenges and people working from home.

Andy Scaife, CEO at ONP Group, said: “Some clients are understandably disappointed that they are likely to miss the stamp duty deadline. For some time now, we have been doing our best to manage buyers’ expectations by letting them know what the stamp duty charge will be if they cannot complete by 31 March.

“Whilst we will try to do everything we can to complete as many of those transactions in our pipeline, it is better to know now rather than on the day of completion so at least they can try to make some preparations to cover the extra cost, should it arise.”

ONP has been open for business all the way through the lockdowns and working tirelessly to get transactions over the line. Having invested heavily in technology and efficiency to streamline the conveyancing process, turnaround times have held up well, although since the start of the year the industry as a whole has seen these push out.