Buyers benefitting from stamp duty holiday must begin search by November

Homeowners planning to benefit from the stamp duty holiday should begin their homebuying process by 1 November or risk missing out, according to new findings from the Legal & General Mortgage Club.

A survey from the mortgage club found that an average homebuying timeline from start to finish could be up to 15 weeks, or up to 17 weeks for buyers with more complex requirements, as the housing market continues to experience “extraordinary” levels of demand.

Since reopening after lockdown, the housing market has seen heightened interest from buyers, which was further boosted by the chancellor’s stamp duty holiday on the first £500,000 of a property’s value. Potential buyers have until 31 March 2021 to take advantage of the incentive.

Surveying a range of stakeholders in the housing market – including estate agents, surveyors, conveyancers, and housebuilders to build an estimated timeline for a typical housing journey given these delays – L&G suggested that unprecedented demand and the impact of COVID-19 has led to delays in the journey for many borrowers.

The research revealed that before the pandemic, a mortgage application for a consumer with straightforward circumstances took less than two weeks (61%) to move to mortgage offer. Since the reopening of the mortgage market, however, advisers have found that this process is taking much longer – with 30% indicating it is taking three to four weeks, and a further 32% saying it is taking four to eight weeks.

Potential buyers with more complex backgrounds, such as those with impaired credit histories or who have been on furlough, may need to allow up to six to eight weeks (28%) to get approved for a mortgage.

“The government’s stamp duty holiday has helped to encourage many hopeful buyers to press ahead with their homeownership plans, providing a much needed boost to the economy,” said L&G Mortgage Club director, Kevin Roberts.

“However, those wishing to take advantage of the ‘holiday’ will need to plan carefully to avoid missing the March 2021 deadline, particularly if they have their own property to sell first. Buyers should speak to a mortgage adviser when creating a plan as these professionals understand how to navigate the ongoing changes to the mortgage and homebuying process.

“As homebuyers rush to take advantage of the stamp duty holiday, policy makers need to consider if a tapering of the stamp duty deadline is needed instead of a hard deadline. We need to avoid those moving or purchasing a home missing out through delays after 31 March when the holiday ends.”

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