New figures from HMRC appear to suggest the extent to which first-time buyers are ramping up the property market in an attempt to beat the March 24 deadline for the end of the Stamp Duty exemption.
The official statistics show there were 64,000 home buyers overall in January, up 12,000 from January last year, and the highest January total since 2008, suggesting the boost could come at least in part from first-time buyers.
Meanwhile, the National Association of Estate Agents has claimed a small rise in the number of sales to first-time buyers, reporting that in January, 23% of sales were to first-time buyers compared with 21% in December.
The proportion has risen as demand has fallen. According to the NAEA, there were only 260 new applicants per branch in January compared with 294 in December.
NAEA president Wendy Evans-Scott said: “First-time buyers seem to be making the most of the Stamp Duty holiday before it comes to an end in March.
“We are deeply disappointed that ministers have axed this support for a crucial part of the housing market.”
Property analyst Samantha Baden, of the website FindaProperty, said: “The property market moves in line with the seasons, with reduced activity and prices at the end of the year, which then picks up again as spring approaches.
“This year has been the same, but first-time buyers have provided an additional boost as people stepping on to the property ladder attempt to rush through deals to avoid Stamp Duty, as shown by these unusually high figures.”
These are the HMRC figures on the total number of transactions in January:
Jan 2006: 100,000
Jan 2007: 115,000
Jan 2008: 79,000
Jan 2009: 41,000
Jan 2010: 50,000
Jan 2011: 52,000
Jan 2012: 64,000