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How to buy a house before the stamp duty holiday ends

How to speed up your house sale and/or purchase so you don't miss out on the stamp duty holiday

Post updated: February 3rd, 2021

buy house stamp duty holiday

The government introduced a stamp duty holiday in July. The tax is now suspended on the first £500,000 of all property sales in England and Northern Ireland until 31st March next year.

This will save buyers as much as £15,000, if they are buying a property of £500,000 or more.

But, it has been estimated that more than 300,000 sales agreed between September 2020 and January 2021 could miss out.

Property data analysts TwentyCi estimate that as many as half of sales agreed on October 22 would not meet the March 31 deadline, with more and more buyers disappointed as we head towards the new year.

Buyers stand to miss out because conveyancing, lending and search services are overwhelmed by demand.

The Society of Licensed Conveyancers, the Bold Legal Group, and The Conveyancing Association issued a statement in October saying that transactions are going to take longer than usual to progress. The stamp duty holiday, a backlog of transactions still outstanding following the spring lockdown, and the impact of Covid 19 on individual lawyers are all to blame.

The situation is expected to be further compounded as firms adjust their working practises as we enter a second national lockdown.

How to speed up your sale and purchase

1. Find a local estate agent with a good track record

Sellers can use our estate agent tool to find the best local estate agent based on how quickly they sell, how often they achieve asking price, their success rate and more

Find and Compare Local Estate Agents

This form will take you to www.estateagent4me.co.uk for the results

2. Sellers should instruct a solicitor as soon as you list, and buyers as soon as your offer is accepted

You can compare quotes now from conveyancing solicitors and speak to them about the process and costs so you’re ready to instruct them.

3. Opt for a legal team using a digital platform

They can complete transactions quicker. Digital Move claims cases can be completed up to 6 weeks quicker. Look for the Digital Move logo when you search for your conveyancing firm.

4. Sort your Energy Performance Certificate

Also known as an EPC this has to be included with a sale by law. It shows how energy efficient your new home is and if you moved in within the last 10 years, yours is still valid. Here’s how to check if you have one or how to get one if you still need to.

5. Get your paperwork together 

If it’s a leasehold, find the lease. Locate certificates showing compliance with regulations of any works done from planning permissions to FENSA certificates for window replacements. Don’t forget valid guarantees a home buyer will want to see. Here’s a list of essential documents to get ready

6. Get a mortgage agreement in principle before you make an offer on a property

Many lenders and brokers are experiencing COVID related delays and mortgage choices have significantly reduced, especially for first time buyers. Avoid wasting time later down the line and start the mortgage process now.

7. Home buyers insurance

In uncertain times like these, home buyer protection insurance covers buyers for some of their legal and survey costs as well as mortgage lending fees should your purchase fall through.

8. Build in time for local searches

Covid-19 and now lockdown restrictions mean many local authorities are struggling to supply their own searches and also to provide access to data for personal search companies.

If you are moving within an area you know well, then “no search indemnity insurance” will cover you if one or more searches do not come through before you need to exchange. But you’ll need to check your lender would be happy to lend on that basis. For more information see our guide, with details of what to consider and information on local delays.

9. Plan for the worst case scenario

While we’re calling on government to extend the stamp duty holiday beyond March, there is no guarantee this will happen. And the move process is an uncertain one at the best of times.

If you are buying, you should cost in the additional stamp duty rate in the event you complete after the 31st March 2021 and make sure you have a contingency to make that payment. Sellers may also want to check their buyers could afford the additional tax if this did happen. When push comes to shove, if you need to pull out of the transaction, both parties can legally do so without financial consequences before exchange of contracts.

How is your house move progressing?  Tell us in the comments below


Leave a comment (5)* Required

  1. Vernon D'Costa

    Our buyers have completed their sale and are now in temp accommodation waiting for us to exchange/complete. My house is ready for occupation, and I don’t need to buy. When my Solicitor is ready to exchange can we exchange and complete at the same time? this will assist the buyer to claim the Stamp Duty. If delays by my solicitor causes our buyer to lose out on the SD offer and we/they can prove there was no justifiable reason for the delay, can they sue the solicitor responsible for the loss?

  2. paul kwiatkowski

    The government should honour those is the pipeline that can prove the sale was agreed and is going through the system.

  3. Ani

    All gone smoothly until now.. the vendors new purchase has fallen through, now I’m left on the fence.. I can manage the stamp duty regardless of the holiday but it’s the not knowing that is so damn frustrating, estate agent were brilliant before but now don’t even bother answering my call to update!

  4. John Budnik

    We bought in November and ever since then the
    solicitors have dragged their heals due to COVID issues and are now saying it is unlikely we will exchange before the end of March.

  5. Stuart Nice

    The stamp duty holiday? It is not clear if it’s January or Mach 31st?

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