Of course we don’t know for sure if the Chancellor will do what most agents believe is the right thing, but the signs are encouraging.
This week’s special 65-minute Parliamentary debate on the subject, in response to a still-growing online petition, was expected to fracture along party lines.
Conservatives were predicted to back the call - gently at least, for fear of embarrassing their government. Meanwhile, Labour MPs were forecast to brand the whole stamp duty holiday as a tax break for homeowners who probably didn’t really need it.
But that didn’t happen, not by a long chalk.
The reason that Labour MP after Labour MP lined up to support an extension - and yes, this even included Diane Abbott - was because of campaigning.
Most Conservative and Labour MPs cited constituents who had contacted them either individually or collectively, saying they would be personally out of pocket. And of course an online petition allows MPs to see where signatures come from - with 140,000-plus signatures, that means a healthy number of signatories in each seat, including those where the MP won by only a few thousand or even just a few hundred votes.
The campaign may still turn to ashes but the minister who spoke for the government - Jesse Norman, Financial Secretary to the Treasury - gave just a glimmer of hope of movement on the issue.
He said the government in general and HM Treasury in particular would note the public’s views and MPs' views carefully, and would consider ‘substantial performance’ as well as ‘completion’ when looking at what to do about ending the stamp duty holiday.
Some observers have taken that ‘substantial performance’ element to be the possibility - just the possibility- of a tapered end to the holiday, where buyers who had reached a certain stage of their transaction would still get the SDLT discount, even if completion had to be after March 31.
So why has this campaign won significant support so far when others - for example, those seeking to turn back the tide of tax measures against landlords - have clearly failed?
I’d say there are six reasons...
1. It’s about people and fairness. The campaign’s success is precisely because it’s NOT been about estate agents or solicitors or surveyors. MPs in this week’s debate spoke of how unfair a cliff edge would be to those people - from first-time buyers to downsizers - who would lose out. The phrase “through no fault of their own” was used a lot.
2. It’s tightly focused.There’s clarity of purpose - this is about people getting their ‘rightful’ SDLT exemption, either by deferring the cliff edge to a later date or allowing buyers already part way down to road to get the benefit even if they complete after March 31.
3. There’s almost complete agreement amongst analysts - a few dissent, perhaps sometimes to grab headlines, but almost all agents and conveyancers, as well as major organisations from Zoopla to the Halifax called for some form of tapering or extension.
4. There’s clear messaging - it’s not difficult for anyone to understand that if you seal the deal by March 31 you benefit and if it’s April 1 or later you miss out.
5. Celebrity endorsement helps - Phil Spencer and the Daily Telegraph throwing their weight behind a campaign reaches people other than agents who read EAT or MPs interested in housing. In turn, that is reflected in MPs’ postbags and in public debate.
6. Finally, successful long term lobbying - well done to the agents’ trade groups, house builders and others from the industry who argued persuasively that it wasn’t just Foxtons, Savills and Persimmon that would benefit from a thriving housing market, but individual owners, the trades involved in the ripple effect, and the wider economy that would benefit too.
We’re going to have to wait until Budget Day, March 3, to know if all this worked for sure.
But it looks like a concession of some kind is coming, against the odds. Don’t take my word for it...just check out the comments of those Labour MPs.
*Editor of Estate Agent Today, Letting Agent Today and Landlord Today, Graham can be found tweeting about all things property at @PropertyJourn