With Rishi Sunak reportedly set to extend the stamp duty holiday until the end of June in his Spring budget next week, Britain’s housing market appears to have been given yet another reprieve.
It’s good news for buyers who are part-way through a drawn-out sale plagued by delays due to the latest lockdown – but could also tempt sellers to take the plunge.
Today Rightmove revealed online house hunting reached a new record this month, overtaking the previous one set last summer, with 8.5 million visits to its website on February 17.
If you’re thinking of selling or buying a property in the next four months to take advantage of the temporary stamp duty cut, which could save you up to £15,000, FEMAIL has spoken to two property experts to get their advice.
From how to pick the right estate agent to getting ahead of the game with your solicitor, here Henry Pryor and Emily Evans share their top tips for bagging a quick sale.
If you’re thinking of selling or buying a property in the next four months to take advantage of the stamp duty cut, which could save you up to £15,000, FEMAIL has spoken to two property experts to get their advice (stock image)
EARLY BIRD CATCHES THE WORM
‘If the Stamp Duty holiday is extended then don’t delay, get your property onto the market today,’ Henry advises.
‘At the moment there is about 30 per cent less property for sale than we would usually see, which means that your home will stand out.
‘As the vaccine is rolled out sellers will become bolder, and from April more properties will come onto the market.
‘I expect the bulk of those that would have come on in the first quarter to join the usual numbers that we would expect in the second quarter potentially leading to a glut of homes for sale. The early bird may catch the worm!’
FIRST IMPRESSIONS COUNT
Emily said: ‘Most people will drive past the property before they book to have a look at it. So at all times try to keep the front gardens and driveway of your house well-maintained and as inviting as possible if you’re trying to sell.
‘Paint the front door if it’s looking shabby, replace the door handle, de-weed the driveway and hide the bins!’
DON’T ASK TOO MUCH
Henry recommends pricing your property competitively – don’t be tempted to ask more than it’s worth.
‘Many sellers will doubtless be ambitious and too many estate agents will flatter them with optimistic valuations,’ he warned.
‘Buyers aren’t stupid, they may pay a full price – but only if they think that the property is worth it.’
Emily also urged sellers to price their home realistically and get three independent valuations done.
‘If one is way above the rest, it’s generally far too optimistic and could mean you’ll end up being on the market with no interest,’ she said.
‘If you’re looking for a new property, remember to be savvy and look up what the previous people bought it for, as this will massively help with negotiations.
‘You can do this on the Zoopla current values tab or on Nethouseprices.com. And remember to negotiate – don’t pay asking price!’
GET YOUR HOME BUYER-READY
Don’t panic about redecorating your home to get it ‘sale-ready’ – a simple spring clean will do the trick according to Henry.
‘Make sure it is presentable and tidy and make the space flexible,’ he urged. ‘People don’t want dining rooms these days, they need space to work from home and a home school room.
‘Make a fuss about your broadband speed – it’s the fourth utility and post-pandemic is something buyers will want to know about.’
If you have a bit more time on your hands right now and want to maximise your chances of getting the best price for your property, Emily suggests giving your ceilings and skirting boards a coat of white paint to freshen them up.
‘Decorate neutrally throughout,’ she said. ‘Sellers sometimes do the walls then forget to do the rest which leaves the ceiling and woodwork looking a yellow colour.
USE A TRADITIONAL ESTATE AGENT
When it comes to marketing your home, Henry strongly advised against doing it yourself.
‘Tempting though it may be to advertise your home on Instagram or Mumsnet, this market is fickle and it’s easy to trip over,’ he warned.
‘Use a traditional estate agent; if the sale needs pushing along to meet a deadline, don’t imagine that some web-based call centre agency is going to do this.
‘See three estate agents and pick the one you trust.’
Emily recommends taking a similar approach with solicitors, adding: ‘Call round solicitors and find one that is quieter than others who agree they could push it through before the cut-off time.
‘I love an independent solicitor, not a huge corporate firm. Also, check your estate agent’s pictures do your home justice!’
‘By doing this you are attracting more buyers and leaving less room for people to negotiate you down.
‘Some buyers can’t see through decor and have limited imagination, so having it neutral massively helps. Also sort out any damp patches and replace or clean any stained and old carpets.
‘This will help you maintain your marketing price as people think flooring is way more money than it actually is to replace – and can cause delays for the buyer when moving in if they want to replace them.
‘If there are stains that will come out, hire a carpet cleaner to keep the cost down. Also tidy clutter and kids’ toys away. Leaving it out makes buyers think there isn’t a lot of storage space. If you have too much stuff, rent a storage unit.’
Emily also recommends re-grouting your bathroom and replacing the silicone, which can become discoloured over time.
‘This freshens it all up, without the need of re-tiling and demonstrates to the buyers that it’s been well maintained and cared for,’ she explained.
‘No one wants to see mould growing round the shower in the silicone.’
With outdoor space now a big lure for buyers after spending months stuck at home in lockdown, Emily recommends clearing your garden from any rubbish or clutter and giving it a good tidy.
‘Overgrown gardens can put people off and can also make gardens look a lot smaller than they are,’ she said.
One final thing to tick off is to service your boiler. ‘You wouldn’t leave your car without a service would you?’ Emily points out.
‘Showing buyers that you have a well maintained boiler is a great selling point, and stops them trying to re-negotiate on price at a later stage.’
Emily recommends getting your agreement in principle sorted with your mortgage broker before you start looking for a new house.
‘Lenders are being really difficult at the moment and wanting your bra size and your inside leg measurement,’ she said.
‘Get all your ducks in a row first, before you waste any time or money. Lenders are being particularly difficult if you have a small deposit or are self-employed and have taken government help, such as furlough.
‘In this case, get yourself a decent mortgage broker. I can recommend mine – Fox Davidson.’
Recent analysis by the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) think tank said the tax break had propelled house sales to their highest level since before the 2007 financial crisis
WHAT IS THE STAMP DUTY HOLIDAY?
Last July the Chancellor exempted most buyers from the levy if they completed their transactions before March 31, 2021 – saving people up to £15,000 – and leaving would-be homeowners racing to meet the deadline.
This week sources told The Times that Rishi Sunak is preparing to use his Budget next week to extend the holiday by another three months.
The policy covers the sale of property worth up to £500,000, and would cost around £1billion to implement.
It comes amid concerns that not extending the holiday would create a cliff edge, jeorpardising hundreds of thousands of sales.
Recent analysis by the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) think tank said the tax break had propelled house sales to their highest level since before the 2007 financial crisis.
As soon as you agree a sale, Emily suggests collecting your paperwork from your solicitor in person (it pays to choose a local firm), filling it in as soon as possible and dropping it back off to avoid any postal delays.
‘Pay your initial money to get searches underway,’ she added. ‘This will massively speed up the process.
‘Remember, if the property you are buying has had a previous sale fall through, you could get your solicitor to approach the previous buyer’s solicitor and buy the searches off them. That will hugely speed up the process as well.’
If the stamp duty holiday is extended, Henry encourages sellers to get their solicitor to prepare ahead of finding a buyer so there isn’t a rush when you do.
‘Ideally complete the Property Information Form, find the deeds, and you can apply for the local searches too which won’t cost that much and can be transferred to a buyer when they come along,’ he said.
‘You may even want to consider commissioning a building survey which again can be made available to a buyer and sold to them if they want to buy the house.’
DON’T LOSE SIGHT OF THE BIG PICTURE
Though saving on stamp duty is indeed a huge draw, both Henry and Emily urge buyers and sellers not to panic and rush into something they might regret.
‘There will be a market whenever the stamp duty holiday ends and if you miss the deadline and prices adjust, then what you want to buy will be that much cheaper,’ Henry said.
‘Don’t lose sight of the big picture. The money is important, but a home for you and your family is what you want the money for.’
Emily added: ‘Due to Stamp Duty being abolished last year we saw prices increase dramatically, meaning people spent more on the house than the original stamp duty would have cost them.
‘Since then we have seen prices and demand fall again, so don’t do anything rash.’
For more information about Henry and Emily, visit henrypryor.com or www.emilypropertyexpert.co.uk