Back in the summer, we reported on Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s announcement of a stamp duty holiday until next spring, which has meant that house buyers haven’t paid a penny of the property tax on any transaction valued at up to £500,000 – as long as the house or flat was the buyer’s main residence.

In late September, Nationwide reported a 5% hike in house prices on the back of this tax break, amid some feeling that values may have already peaked. The suspension of stamp duty buoyed up the market, as did a surge in interest once the property market reopened after the toughest lockdown restrictions had eased, causing pent-up demand and itchy feet as buyers came to realise what they wanted from their next move after spending longer at home.

Regular stamp duty charges are set to return on April 1 next year, although Sunak could come under pressure to extend it.

Act now to benefit

The high transaction volumes of recent months have reportedly led to delays in purchases in the current housing market. This may mean that if you’re planning on moving, it could make sense to get the ball rolling by November 1.

Legal & General Mortgage Club (L&GMC), involved in nearly a fifth of the UK’s mortgages, says that, pre-pandemic, most mortgage applications would typically be approved within two weeks. (Longer in more complicated circumstances.)

However, the process is currently taking much longer. A third of L&GMC’s advisers say applications are now taking up to four weeks. A further third claim the process can take as long as eight weeks. That is especially true of your situation is more complicated – for example if your credit history isn’t straightforward or if you have been furloughed.

L&GMC also says that it can take three weeks between an offer being made and exchange of contracts. Additionally, buyers should allow up to a further two weeks between exchange and completion.

Meanwhile, some estate agents are apparently saying that, typically, average time between an offer being made on a place and completion has gone up by around eight weeks.

So all of this means, that, overall, the process of purchasing a property could take up to 15 weeks in all, or as many as 17 if a buyer has more complicated needs.

What’s more, even that doesn’t allow for holidays like half-terms and Christmas, or indeed the potential implications of Britain going into a second nationwide lockdown.

The advice from Legal and General is to kick off the process by early November to be sure of being able to benefit from the stamp duty break. Equally, it’s always sensible to include some ‘slippage room’ in case anything crops up during the process which could hold things up – that way, your property transaction will still go through in plenty of time. Remember, an extension of that April 1 deadline is by no means guaranteed.

What we say at Oakfield

Kerry Newstead, director of sales at Oakfield Estate Agents, says:

“As we’ve been saying for months, sales have been brisk across our areas of Hastings, Eastbourne and Bexhill. And while spring may seem some time off, not least in uncertain and rapidly changing times, in terms of the house-selling process, five months really isn’t that long.

“For anyone serious about buying a new home, we’d agree with this latest advice from Legal & General if you want to take advantage of the stamp duty holiday, something which could save you thousands. Previously, for example, on a £375,000 property, you would have had to have found or saved £8,750 in all in tax. We wouldn’t want to think of anyone missing out on such a significant saving just because they didn’t get things moving slightly earlier.”

How we can help

At Oakfield, we have extensive experience in our areas of East Sussex. Your dream home could well be among the many properties that are listed on our website. What’s more, we will keep you constantly updated with the very latest flats and houses coming on to the market.

We’re with you every step of the way, from browsing properties all the way through to exchange and completion and collecting the keys to your new home.

Our close links to Lodestone Financial Planning help you to organise the mortgage that’s right for you. At the same time, we have access to highly experienced and strongly recommended solicitors for all your conveyancing needs.

Talk to us today – and get the ball rolling while there’s still time to save thousands on your next move.