‘Biggest conveyancing logjam in a decade’ as stamp duty deadline looms

More than 700,000 home sales across Britain are nearing completion – marking the biggest “conveyancing logjam” in more than a decade.

Some 704,000 sales are going through the conveyancing process as the stamp duty holiday deadline looms, Rightmove said.

It is the highest number of sales subject to contract that the property website has recorded over the past 10 years.

At the start of the year, 613,000 homes were in the sales pipeline.

Some sellers may need to brace themselves for buyers trying to renegotiate the price if they miss the stamp duty deadline.

The stamp duty holiday was extended in the March Budget and, once the June 30 deadline passes, a new tapered rate will come into force and run from July to the end of September.

The current “nil rate” stamp duty band is £500,000, but from July 1 it will shrink to £250,000 and from October 1 it will revert to its normal level of £125,000.

Stamp duty applies in England and Northern Ireland, and in Wales the current land transaction tax concession – the equivalent of stamp duty – will end on June 30.

Of the 704,000 sales going through, 220,000 were marked as sold subject to contract between July last year and the end of February this year in England and are yet to complete.

The current average time from sale agreed to completion is four months, Rightmove said.

Of the 220,000, 131,000 sales are for properties over £250,000 – the group in particularly urgent need to get sales over the line before the end of June as the nil rate band will then fall to £250,000.

The Law Society said this week that solicitors have been stressed and under pressure, working late nights and weekends to help home-movers complete deals in time.

It suggested that conveyancing solicitors make sure clients have realistic expectations of the impact of not making the June 30 deadline.

Some buyers may try to negotiate money off the house price if they miss the stamp duty deadline.

Rightmove said research among buyers expecting to benefit from the stamp duty holiday found that only 4% would abandon their plans to buy a property if they missed either the June or September deadline in England.

But one in four (25%) would try to renegotiate the price with the seller.

More than half (53%) said they would go ahead as planned.

Stamp duty savings are not the main driving force for moving, Rightmove found.

The most common reasons include buying a bigger home, finding the right property, relocating to the countryside or the coast, and getting a garden.

Rightmove director of property data Tim Bannister said: “The easing of restrictions, extended stamp duty holiday, better mortgage availability for first-time buyers, race for space, and relocation plans have all combined to create the biggest conveyancing logjam we’ve ever recorded over the past 10 years.

“We really hope those who had at least four months to make it through to completion will make it in time to beat the first stamp duty deadline, but with the tapering until September many will still make some savings so all will not be lost.

“The pace of properties coming on and off the market is also the quickest we’ve recorded, and agents are telling me they have multiple viewings followed by a number of offers within days of a property first appearing on Rightmove.

“At the start of this year we had anticipated a quieter second quarter of the year, but buyer demand and the pipeline has continued at pace, making it an incredibly busy time for agents and conveyancers in many areas right now.”