‘I bought myself a new home for Christmas’: festive frenzy as buyers try to beat stamp duty deadline
Liz Taylor moved home in the lead up to Christmas and spent the day unpacking
Britain’s property market is enjoying its busiest ever festive season as buyers rush to complete their house purchases before the stamp duty holiday ends. As much of the country settled down to enjoy Christmas – or some form of it – keen house-hunters were scouring property websites in an attempt to save thousands of pounds in tax and find the home of their dreams. However, experts have warned that those who start their search now face a race against time to complete before the stamp duty holiday ends on March 31. Those who miss the deadline will be left with an unwanted present in the form of a tax bill of up to £15,000. Despite lockdown restrictions across the country, property firms said the number of people seeking new homes had boomed this winter. A poll conducted for Yopa, an estate agency, found that 83pc of would-be buyers said they were happy to view properties between Dec 18 and Jan 6. Dexters, another agency, said the number of Christmas Day visits to its website had increased by 65pc over the past three years. Activity today is expected to be even higher. Jeremy Leaf, a north London estate agent, said: “Boxing Day is usually the busiest day of the year in terms of online property searches.” Government action to boost the property market has increased the number of winter purchases. After the closure of the housing market during the first lockdown, activity boomed when the Government waived stamp duty for the vast majority of house purchases until the end of March. With buyers able to save up to £15,000 in tax, the market has been in a frenzy. However, house purchases can take around three months to complete, so buyers face a New Year’s Eve deadline to stand a chance of completing by the end of March. However, solicitors and banks often have reduced capacity at this time of year and mortgage deals can take longer to be agreed. Similarly, a slowdown in the surveying sector thanks to a post-lockdown backlog could mean that buyers are not able to purchase as quickly as normal. Even lucky ones who were able to complete their purchase in time for Christmas may have found that moving home over the festive period can pose its own problems. Liz Taylor, 55, who moved house days before Christmas in a previous year, was given the keys to her new home on Dec 20 and faced a race against time to get the place ready for Christmas Day. Mrs Taylor, a business development manager, had separated from her husband and had to move quickly. The property needed major renovation, including a new boiler and radiators, so she had to spend Christmas without heating, as no engineers were available. “It was a shambles,” she said. “There was no central heating and I had too much furniture for the house I had bought. The front room had a Christmas tree but there were piles of boxes and furniture everywhere.” Despite the challenges, Mrs Taylor and her two children were able to celebrate a unique Christmas together. She said she would recommend a festive season house move to others. “It’s exciting to start a new home at Christmas,” she said. “It’s a stressful time of year and moving into a house is never straightforward. You just need to try to make it as Christmassy as possible.” There has been a shift in the property market this year. With millions of people working from home, buyers have sought bigger properties in rural areas rather than small flats in city centres. Sellers in the country have received higher prices than usual, particularly in the run-up to the festive season. Liz Taylor moved home days before Christmas CREDIT: Heathcliff O'MalleyLaura Johnstone of London Home Search, a buying agent, said: “There tend to be fewer homes on the market at Christmas, so sellers can achieve a better price as there is less competition.” Jake Shaw-Tan of Galbraith, a property consultancy, said demand in rural areas had soared and sellers had secured “rapid sales” thanks to an influx of buyers from large towns and cities. “There is always a shortage of available property in winter,” he said. “This year the market has been exceptionally strong, particularly for rural property, and sellers have taken advantage.” Richard Page of Dexters said families would be more likely to discuss property moves at Christmas this year, having had limited contact in 2020. “When families gather together, long-term decisions are often made, which may include moving house,” he said. “We are anticipating a very busy end to the year with strong demand continuing straight into 2021.” Related Topics
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