How to beat the Stamp Duty Deadline – The importance of speed

If you’re in the process of buying or selling, the race is on to complete ahead of 31st March – the Stamp Duty Holiday deadline. The government has raised the stamp duty threshold in England and Northern Ireland to £500,000 until 31 March, 2021. This means that purchasers will pay no stamp duty on the first £500,000 of the property price.

To take advantage of the thousands of ££s worth of savings the Stamp Duty holiday offers, you need to get your ducks in a row. Speed and being organised is crucial – doing what you can to aid the process will help get you over the finishing line in time.

Here’s our advice on what you can do to help beat the deadline…

Speed is of the essence

Respond to emails/calls from your solicitor quickly. Aim to respond as quickly as possible, no later than 24 hours to keep the ball rolling. The same applies to returning documents and forms solicitors may require you to complete and send back to them. Complete documents within 48 hours of receiving them, the sooner the better.

Deliver your documents by hand to your solicitor if possible to avoid delays in the post. We’ve noticed delays in our local area due to the pandemic. If your solicitor is in your local area, it will save valuable time to hand deliver your documents. If your solicitor is further afield, consider using a Guaranteed 24hr Delivery service instead.

Communication is key

Contact your solicitor at least once a week to ensure your file stays on ‘top of the pile’. If an enquiry has been raised that is more complex to the norm, there is no harm in contacting them more frequently to ensure they have received all outstanding information from you and can continue on to draw up contracts for exchange.

Be sure to let your solicitor know at the beginning of the process if a family member is contributing financially to allow you to buy the property, so they can draw up a ‘Gifted Deposit’ document.

Offer accepted? Book your survey!

Buyers should have a survey booked as soon as the offer is agreed. Some buyers may decide not to opt for a survey and that a mortgage valuation is enough, so be sure to speaker to your mortgage advisor/lender to organise this as soon as your offer is agreed. This can save days, or even weeks. Bear in mind that the surveyor may not be able to visit the property immediately.

Forward a copy of the survey report to your solicitor immediately as they may have to raise further enquiries with your seller, depending on the results.

Be mortgage ready

Make sure your mortgage is secured before you offer – this is the single most lengthy process in the buying chain and should be agreed prior to offering on a property. Our in-house experts, Hardisty and Co Financial, can review the whole market to find the most suitable mortgage deal for you.

Once your offer is agreed, getting your mortgage accepted quickly is key. This is the single most lengthy process in the buying chain. The turnaround time has gone up significantly since the pandemic hit, with the average time from submitting your application to approval going from 10 days before the pandemic to around 20 days now. This timeframe could be even longer for more complex cases, such as for those with poor credit or specialist lending requirements.

To help speed up the process, be sure to return and sign any forms as well as locate and send over any supporting documents as quickly as possible. Documents to dig out include:

    • Proof of identity – passport ideally or driving licence
    • Utility bill
    • Last three month’s payslips
    • Bank statements for the past 3-6 month

Your lender may require more documents if you are self employed or have earnings from more than one source. You are likely to be required to have copies of documents certified by an official person e.g. doctor, dentist, accountant, councillor, solicitor, teacher etc. If you don’t know anyone suitable, the Post Office offer a service which can be an efficient way of getting it done if you’re pushed for time.

Be mentally prepared for delays

Buying a house can be stressful at the best of times, not to mention when you’re trying to beat a deadline that could save you thousands of pounds.

It’s important to realise that even if you follow all the steps above and are as organised as you can possibly be, you might still miss the deadline. Demand for mortgages is extremely high, which has doubled the time to process mortgage application. The conveyancing process is also taking longer than usual due to the sheer number of sales going through at present and because some councils’ staff have been redeployed to deal with the coronavirus crisis which delays the return of searches to your solicitor.

Being mentally prepared for extra delays will help you stay calm and pragmatic throughout your property purchase.

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.

Whilst we will do everything possible to drive the sale forward, fundamentally it is down to you and your solicitor. The quicker you respond to your solicitor and lender, the more chance there is of a speedy, successful conclusion.


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