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By Elaine Penhaul

Owner, Lemon & Lime Interiors


Stamp duty holiday: how to keep your chain intact

Following the fluctuation of the property market during the UK’s first national lockdown, the industry was given a lifeline by the government through the introduction of a stamp duty holiday to give the market a well-needed boost and prevent further decline.

The holiday – which relieves house buyers of stamp duty costs when purchasing properties under £500,000 – substantially contributed to the rise in house sales once the market reopened in May 2020.

The following six months saw the continuation of growth in property sales - a big help to the economy which, in the UK, is predicated on the housing market.


Initially due to end on March 31 2021, the deadline has now been pushed back to June 30, with the nil-rate then lowered to £250,000 until the end of September.

This will be met with mixed feelings by professionals across the industry. While many will be relieved that this lifeline has been extended and will continue to support the prosperity of the market, there will also be concerns about how the race to get transactions completed before the end of the holiday will push property prices artificially and unsustainably high.

Although it seems fair that anyone who has already agreed a sale in the period where the stamp duty holiday initially applied should be allowed to finalise their purchase without these costs, the added pressure to complete could potentially disrupt the market that has now settled since its standstill during the first national lockdown.

Understandably, measures must be taken to soften the impact of economic decline and, with unemployment and furlough having a detrimental impact on the provision of mortgage offers, the government wants to encourage people to continue to purchase properties and keep the market afloat.

However, as this added incentive encourages buyers to push for completion before the new deadline, the risk of instability that will come with this added interest is something that must also be considered and navigated accordingly.

The cost of collapse

This breathing space means that it is now more important than ever to make sure that sales chains remain strong, as delays and collapses could still cost vendors thousands of pounds. The new deadline will rapidly approach.

With Rightmove reporting that 29% of proposed purchases collapsed in January - a figure that has increased month-on-month since November 2020 – estate agents and vendors need to take the necessary steps to cement a successful sale.

Having a head start

As an agent, it’s important to encourage the vendor to move as quickly as possible once they receive an offer. Not only does this include instructing a solicitor to deal with the sale of their property, but also actioning anything that may be holding them up on the other side of the chain.

If they are purchasing another property, encourage the vendor to do everything they can to get this sale moving so it doesn’t hold up the sale of their own home. Whether this is instructing a surveyor or locating deposit funds, the vendor needs to move fast on their own purchase, so they don’t become the cause of any delays themselves.

Triumph trusted experts

It’s not unusual for vendors to want to seek out cheaper alternatives when looking for surveyors or solicitors to employ. However, it’s important that agents offer professional advice and recommendations for businesses that can help vendors to secure their sale as quickly as possible. 

Although they may cost more, guide your vendor towards picking experienced solicitors and surveyors that understand the importance of keeping the chain moving. Using established companies that are familiar with the house-selling process means that they will often be more efficient than cheaper alternatives and will be able to quickly mitigate any issues that may arise.

Prepare the paperwork

Staying on top of the progress of the process is key. It is easy to assume that, because the paperwork has been handed over to the solicitors, there is nothing that can be done by the agent or vendor until they receive an update.

In any sale, there are always questions going back and forth - it is up to the vendor to answer everything promptly and to provide paperwork immediately.

To move this process along as quickly as possible, agents should help sellers to compile the necessary paperwork. Endless reams of product insurances, completion certificates and planning permissions are part of the portfolio, especially if a vendor has lived in their home for a long time or has completed any work on the property while they have been living there.

The more paperwork a vendor can provide at the time of agreeing on an offer, the more likely the sale is to progress at a steady pace.

Keep in communication

Both the vendor and agent can speed up the sale by staying in touch with the solicitor. It is easy to imagine, especially considering the current climate, that every solicitor in a conveyancing office is buried under paperwork.

Staying politely but persistently in touch is a good way to ensure the vendor’s paperwork never falls to the bottom of the pile.

Not only do agents need to make sure they are chasing the solicitor, but they also need to be available when the solicitor is contacting them to ensure missed calls and emails aren’t holding up the sale.

It’s very easy to lose track of each sale’s progress, so staying up to date and in constant communication with both the vendor and solicitor is a sure-fire way to prevent breaks in the chain.

Welcome the buyer

Understandably, due to the current circumstances, the vendor may be reluctant to allow the buyer to revisit the property once they have accepted an offer. However, in order to keep things ticking over, agents should encourage vendors to be flexible when it comes to additional viewings as these can help the sale to run smoothly.

As long as social distancing measures are adhered to, it’s important that buyers are able to return to measure up and clarify any uncertainties that may be lingering and slowing down the transaction.

Buyers are more likely to become disillusioned with the idea of moving and withdraw if they haven’t seen the home for a long period of time, so agents should encourage vendors to keep that desire alive by allowing them to return to the property.

If a sale does fall through

If a sale has fallen through because of the lead up to the March 31 deadline, there is now a brief opportunity to get a new sale secured. Act fast with a market-ready home to attract any disappointed buyers that are around.

Currently, agents are reporting a lack of good stock on the market so anything coming on in the next few weeks, that is well presented and at the right price, should find a buyer quickly, hopefully in time for the extended June deadline.

*Elaine Penhaul is owner of Lemon & Lime Interiors and author of best-selling home staging book ‘Sell High, Sell Fast - How to sell your home for the best possible price, in the quickest possible time’.


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