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Stamp duty completion delays are out of the broker’s hands – poll results

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  • 13/11/2020
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Although there are still four and a half months until the stamp duty holiday ends, it is already expected that transactions completed after 1 November may miss out on the tax break.

 

Brokers are feeling the pressure. Mortgage Solutions’ latest poll revealed 76 per cent of intermediaries were worried their cases would not meet the deadline compared to 24 per cent who were not concerned. 

While the majority of advisers polled appeared to be nervous, brokers have seemingly accepted that regardless of their feelings, the situation is out of their control. 

 

Many moving parts 

Brokers said that there were too many separate parts to a homebuying transaction for advisers to have a grasp on the whole process. 

“Any concern we have around the stamp duty deadline lies with the number of moving parts involved in the homebuying process and many things that are out of our control,” Louis Down, digital marketing manager at HQ Mortgages said. 

Chris Sykes, mortgage consultant at Private Finance, added: “Any hard and fast deadline is difficult in the property sector as there are so many variables outside of an individual buyer’s control. 

“You could have done everything right getting a mortgage fast, having the best solicitors but due to a chain falling apart threefour or five links up from you it can all come crashing down and that is definitely a worry. 

However, Sykes said it was not worth feeling concerned about the progress of his cases until January. 

David Thomas, joint managing partner of Chadney Bulgin, also said worry would not set in until closer to the deadline and expressed his surprise at how early the industry was beginning to panic. 

“We’re here in November and already the industry is worried; it’s four and a half months until the deadline and what we’re finding is lenders are under pressure,” he said. 

“You might expect that they would be concerned in March but not in November. It’s going to be a major managing expectation challenge. We have to tell clients there may be an issue in getting a case to completion and it seems it’ll get worse from here.” 

 

A stoic approach 

Some brokers are taking a more philosophical approach to the situation, such as Ashley Brown, managing director of  Moneysprite who said he was also worried about his cases meeting the deadline. 

“The ancient Greeks, well Zeno at least, already understood in 300BC that a stoic approach is usually for the best. For brokers presently, it is important to focus on what they can control and accept what they can’t,” he said. 

He added the only part brokers could control was informing clients there was a risk the deadline may not be met and documenting such interactions, not the conveyancing process. 

Brown continued: “The closer we get to the deadline the more frank we will need to be in managing clients’ expectations of success or failure.” 

 

Government intervention 

While he did not expect it, Thomas said a government-led pledge to honour applications submitted by a certain date or an agreement to allow transactions where contracts had been exchanged would help to alleviate some worries in the industry, even after the deadline had passed. 

However, he noted the original intention of the stamp duty holiday had been disregarded and said maybe it would not be such a problem if deadlines were missed. 

Thomas added: “What the stamp duty has done is create such a demand that house prices have gone up when [the government] was trying to do was stabilise the market’s position following the first lockdown.” 

He said early predictions did not forecast house prices rising during the pandemic, with projections of seven per cent drops over the year being steeper than the actual annual rises recorded in recent indices. 

“People may actually gain by paying more for a property, versus the stamp duty they would have been saving,” he added. 

 

Business as usual 

For the most part, it was recognised that as long as brokers did their duty in getting applications through and keeping clients informed, they were doing all they could. 

Howard Reuben, managing director of HD Consultants, said he would stick to what he had been doing for the 28 years he had been in the mortgage industry – staying confident in his abilities.  

He added: “You do all you can as a broker but a lender can still pull products, change criteria. 

“We don’t know what’s around the corner for any of us. The best thing we can do, is do the best for that client on that day and hope for the best.” 

Akhil Mair, managing director of Our Mortgage Broker, said his firm was “certainly not worried” about the deadline as his brokers were “actively maintaining weekly dialogue with housebuilders, conveyancers, lenders and the client to ensure all parties are working to meet deadlines and responding to enquiries in an efficient manner”. 

HQ Mortgages’ Down said managing client expectations was something brokers always had to do regardless of circumstances but added it was more important than ever in the current climate. 

“Our stance is that we can make no guarantees around completing in time for the 31 March deadline but will always perform our role in the process as quickly and efficiently as possible,” he added. 

 

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