Chancellor Rishi Sunak has been told to avoid a stamp duty holiday cliff-edge next March at any price - because it could be devastating for agents and consumers.
An open letter signed by many key industry figures urges the government to reconsider its hard deadline on both the stamp duty holiday and the Help to Buy scheme, both of which end on March 31.
Signatories include the British Association of Removers, NAEA Propertymark, The Guild of Property Professionals, Purplebricks, the Residential Property Surveyors Association, the Conveyancing Association, Society of Licenced Conveyancers, property consultant Kate Faulkner, the House Buying and Selling Group, conveyancing company Simplify, and Landmark.
They tell Sunak that the deadline is putting the housing market infrastructure under huge pressure with most parts of the process under strain even now, five months ahead of the deadline.
“Operational constraints in all areas of the home buying industry caused by the disruption brought about by Covid-19 and the current advice to work at home where possible, have seen average property transaction times lengthen from 12 weeks to 20 weeks” the letter says.
“We are concerned that consumers continue to offer on properties expecting to benefit from the SDLT rate reduction but in reality they may be too late.”
The letter calls for a six-month extension of the stamp duty holiday to next September and for measures to be introduced that would taper the end of the holiday rather than let it run to a so-called ‘cliff edge’.
In a separate statement, NAEA Propertymark chief executive Mark Hayward - one of the signatures of the Sunak letter - says: “The joint letter sent to the Chancellor today is an important step in protecting those in the process of buying or selling a house that might miss out on the 31st March stamp duty deadline because of increased pressure on service providers within the industry, which is causing delays for buyers and sellers in the sector.
“The boom, caused by the stamp duty holiday, has been hugely beneficial for the housing market; however, the stamp duty cliff edge on March 31 could cause thousands of sales to fall at the final hurdle and have a knock on and drastic effect on the market which has recovered well from the Covid slump.
“We are calling on government to rethink these timings, so pressure on the system can be released to allow transactions to complete and avoid a disorderly and distressing period for movers and businesses throughout the market.”