The latest Rightmove analysis shows it now takes 126 days from the time an offer is accepted until legal completion - that’s just over four months.
This means new buyers in the market should not be factoring in any stamp duty savings, unless they are first-time buyers who will still be mainly exempt after the March 31 SDLT holiday deadline has passed.
Of those already in the sales agreed pipeline - now at 613,000 according to the portal - Rightmove projects around 100,000 will miss out on their stamp duty saving.
“Seller flexibility to re-negotiate will be key to preventing some sales from falling through for this group” says the portal.
Tim Bannister, director of property data at Rightmove, comments: “There are still a huge number of sales agreed in 2020 that are stuck in the processing logjam and awaiting legal completion, with many hoping to beat the impending tax deadline. For those who fail to do so, there may be difficulties if they have factored the tax savings into their budget calculations.
“The challenge of processing so many transactions in less than three months is made even tougher by the new lockdown restrictions, Covid-19 sickness and homeschooling further reducing capacity in conveyancing, legal searches and mortgage lending.”
Rightmove’s monthly asking price index, out today, shows the price of property coming to the market in recent weeks is down an average 0.9 per cent with some new sellers still hoping to tempt buyers and squeeze in a sale before the stamp duty holiday ends.
The portal says buyer activity has continued to exceed the same period a year ago, even though 2020 also had a very active start with the post-General Election ‘Boris bounce’.
That ‘bounce’ came to an abrupt end with the first lockdown in March and the temporary closure of the housing market, but was followed by a far stronger resurgence as people reassessed their housing needs and priorities following their experience of lockdown.
Visits to Rightmove have continued to increase since the start of January 2021, and are up by 33 per cent on the same period in 2020.
“With another long lockdown upon us, there are early signs that we are surpassing 2020’s new-year surge in activity, with the number of prospective buyers contacting agents between January 2 and 12 up by 12 per cent and sales agreed numbers up by nine per cent on the comparable period last year" the portal claims.
Tim Bannister says: “As we enter the new year and a new lockdown, the housing market remains open but is focused on the imminent end of the stamp duty holiday and on the challenges of the pandemic.
“These major influences on mover behaviour are clouding the 2021 outlook, but Rightmove’s early January market-leading indicators of buyer demand and the number of actual sales being agreed are looking robust, showing that there are many compelling reasons other than the stamp duty savings to make buyers enter the market in 2021.
“Both metrics are up substantially on the same eleven days of January a year ago, which itself was a brisk start to the year due to buyers reacting favourably to the certainty of a majority government.
“That certainty at the beginning of 2020 was replaced by nearly a year of pandemic uncertainty, though the major difference between the first lockdown and this one is that the housing market is open.
“Movers’ changed housing priorities due to the lockdown can therefore be more readily satisfied, though obviously estate agents will be carefully following government safety protocols, with more offering online viewings to help buyers to make shortlists and to cut down on the number of physical viewings that are taking place.”