Saturday 25 July 2020 12:01 am

Mortgage searches skyrocket following Sunak’s stamp duty holiday announcement

Mortgage searches have jumped 29 per cent over the last two weeks, after chancellor Rishi Sunak’s announcement of a reduction in stamp duty sparked potential homebuyers into action.

The chancellor earlier this month unveiled an immediate stamp duty holiday for homes sold for up to £500,000 in England and Northern Ireland until 31 March next year, in a bid to revive the ailing UK property market.

Read more: Stamp duty holiday: Industry reacts to property tax cut

The previous threshold at which stamp duty payments kicked in was £125,000, or £300,000 for first-time buyers. 

The chancellor said the stamp duty holiday will result in an average saving of £4,500 and will benefit nine in 10 house buyers.

The announcement sparked a flurry of mortgage enquiries from UK homeseekers, with Experian’s mortgage comparison service notching a 29 per cent increase in searches, the latest data showed.

House purchase leads made up a higher proportion of searches on Experian’s website than remortgages, suggesting Sunak’s attempt to encourage Brits into buying property was well-noted.

Amir Goshtai, managing director of Experian Marketplace, said: “Since the chancellor’s announcement of a stamp duty holiday, we’ve seen a surge in people searching for mortgages, demonstrating its immediate impact.”

He added: “Mortgage product availability is starting to grow to meet this demand, as lenders reintroduce products back to market, including higher loan to value ranges. The announcement should also help more people qualify for these products as the stamp duty holiday enables them to provide a larger deposit.”

It comes as the UK property market took a beating during the pandemic, after house sales ground to a halt following the Prime Minister’s announcement of a national lockdown in March.

Since restrictions were eased in May and prospective buyers were allowed to view properties, activity has rebounded sharply, with UK property transactions growing almost a third in the month to June. 

However, industry figures have warned that the sharp spike could be a knee-jerk reaction to pent-up demand, as property transactions still remain 35 per cent down year on year.

Andrew Southern, chairman of property developer Southern Grove, said: “The annual decline isn’t particularly flattering but it’s the trajectory that’s most important. The next few months are going to make June look like an amuse-bouche rather than an entrée.

“A healthy improvement in volumes month on month points to a large proportion of agreed sales that were knocked back due to the pandemic finally reaching completion. However, those who only began seriously looking in late May won’t necessarily feature in these figures for months yet.”

Estate agents also warned that the steep hike in house sales may be the result of a surge in lockdown break-ups and divorces.

Divorce enquiries have jumped by around 40 per cent since the start of the UK’s coronavirus lockdown, Co-op Legal Services said in June. 

“We are seeing a spike without a shadow of a doubt, and we’re starting to see that boost of stock come through,” James Forrester, managing director of Barrows & Forrester estate agents in Birmingham, told City A.M.

“It’s just unfortunate we’re seeing the boost from people deciding they no longer want to be together.”

Britain’s housing market has enjoyed a post-lockdown boom over the last few weeks, with asking prices pushed to a record high, according to property website Rightmove.

Latest figures showed that the average price of a property coming on to the market in the UK reached £320,265 this month — the highest figure on Rightmove’s records. 

This was up 2.4 per cent on the previous record of £312,625 reported in March, just before the housing market pressed pause.

Estate agents have noticed a particular spike in enquiries for homes priced between £400,000 and £500,000, after countryside retreats during lockdown sparked demand for bigger spaces.

Read more: How badly will coronavirus hit UK house prices in 2020?

Homes in the Milton Keynes postcode soared 136 per cent following Sunak’s stamp duty holiday announcement, followed by Watford and Harrow. 

Rightmove commercial director Miles Shipside said: “The uplift in enquiries is likely a mixture of people looking in new areas to see what they can now afford, changing their search criteria to bigger, slightly more expensive homes, and new movers coming into the market because they now have enough extra budget to move home. 

“The savings of £15,000 on property above £500,000 may also help some people to trade up more easily.”

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