Honesty is a concept that journalists will tell their readers is non-existent for estate agents. Yeah, right! But as the end to the stamp duty holiday approached, honesty was helping keep the market alive.
And then, having given the allotted time to leaks about the Covid Roadmap it seems the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has been allowed into the media glare with The Times ‘breaking’ a story about the stamp duty holiday deadline being moved from March 31 to June 30.
Inside the Westminster bubble the hierarchy of leaks is important. Out here in the real world where we’ve all been surviving in much smaller bubbles for virtually 12 months, it was more important to have information in a timely fashion rather than worry about bruising politicians’ egos by letting information out in the wrong order.
Not that it will make much difference to people entering the property market now. When buyers crossed my socially-distanced threshold with an offer on a property, I was already making it clear they were as likely to get the deal through before March 31 as I am to reach the tender age of 21 for the first time next week. These are both things that were never going to happen and it’s probably true that sales getting under way now won’t complete by June 30, either.
It makes no difference to them about that imaginary block to deals. They recognise it’s impossible but they still want to move and will do all they can to achieve it.
It is true, though, that the market is suffering from a degree of sluggishness but that’s mainly down to a lack of new instructions because potential vendors were believing all this stuff they read in the papers about the market falling off a cliff on April 1.
It was a foolish notion and again the public must ignore the gloom and doom returning to the papers in May. The market dying on April 1 was becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy as long as people believed the unfounded rumours that it’s all about stamp duty and now we’ll get another dose, just what the market doesn’t need!
People will have to adjust their pricing by the amount that’s ‘lost’ if the deadline is missed. If everyone does the same along the chain then the amount of real pain is minimal, certainly less than the sum of the aborted costs for all the solicitors’ and surveyors’ fees or those for wasted mortgage applications.
After lockdown’s planned end just before the next stamp duty deadline, people will still want to adjust their lives to suit whatever is their new normal.
The role of estate agents is to assist them by being honest about market realities, the fact that the stamp duty holiday inflated prices by more than was notionally saved and the market will now adjust, and that the real winners may well turn out to be the ones who miss the deadline.
So the message is that we want potential sellers to enter the market. It’s because they’re not there that deals are not happening.
I have more buyers on my books than properties to offer them. And even with no prospect of saving their stamp duty payment, there’s frequently competition between up to half a dozen applicants wanting to make genuine offers.
Let’s keep the residential sales market moving. Tell property owners they, and not notional tax holidays, are the stimulus it needs!
*Colin Shairp is director Fine and Country Southern Hampshire and Town and Country Southern. He is also south eastern regional representative on the Fine and Country National Advisory Council.