HMRC’s monthly property sales reports from March to May indicate a gradual drop in house sales. 102,100 homes were sold in May (not seasonally adjusted), down by around 10,000 from April and around 71,000 since March. Sarah Coles, personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, highlights that the stamp duty holiday frenzy is gradually calming down. Could buyer fatigue be setting in? We take a look.
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How has the stamp duty holiday affected property sales?
Sarah Coles states that the process of selling a house takes around three months from agreeing a sale to completion. Also, the government’s decision to extend the stamp duty holiday was made at the beginning of March.
Considering these two factors, there’s a good chance that most sales in May will have been agreed in February, when buyers assumed they would be paying stamp duty. This indicates that the drop in sales in May isn’t a huge surprise. It’s common when tax change distorts the market.
The deadline extension likely meant an increase in sales in June, as buyers seized on the brief window of opportunity to buy without paying stamp duty. And this is evident.
The stamp duty holiday extension ends next week. Reports from property portals like Rightmove are showing around 131,000 sales over £250,000 that need to be completed before the end of June.
What will happen when the stamp duty holiday ends?
Since we saw a relatively gentle fall in May, we might also avoid a steep drop when the holiday ends. As of 1 July 2021, homebuyers won’t be required to pay stamp duty on properties worth up to £250,000. Then, as of 30 September 2021, standard stamp duty rates will resume.
The tapered return to standard rates may still present an opportunity for many. As a result, we may not see a significant drop in sales.
Why is buyer fatigue likely to follow the stamp duty holiday?
Though the stamp duty holiday has helped many buyers to get on the property ladder, some buyers have seen their fair share of frustrations.
The majority of interested buyers rushed to take advantage of the holiday, causing overloaded property portals. This resulted in lengthy market delays and the possibility of missing out on stamp duty savings.
Buyer fatigue hits when buyers are exhausted by seemingly fruitless property searches or lengthy conveyancing processes that ultimately result in unsuccessful sales. Some buyers have been lucky enough not to miss out on the stamp duty holiday. Others are still concerned that their sale won’t get over the line before the end of June.
There is also concern that house prices have increased to the extent that buyers are not saving much, even with the stamp duty holiday. The argument is that that the focus of the holiday was not entirely to benefit homebuyers but also to stimulate the housing market during the pandemic.
Some homeowners have clearly fallen out of love with the stamp duty savings incentive. As a result, indications are that buyer fatigue may well follow the stamp duty holiday. The result could be a reduction in sales over the summer.
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