Tuesday 23 March 2021 11:03 am

UK housing transactions soar in 'sprint finish' before stamp duty holiday extension

UK housing transactions soared last month in a “sprint finish” to get deals completed before the initial stamp duty holiday deadline.

Residential transactions in the UK were 45.5 per cent higher than February last year and 23 per cent up on January’s levels at 147,050, according to the latest HM Revenue and Customs data.

The sharp increase was driven by house hunters racing to get purchases completed before the stamp duty holiday came to an end, which was originally scheduled to be at the end of this month.

However, Rishi Sunak announced an extension to the tax break in the March budget, taking it to 30 June.

The chancellor also announced that the end of stamp duty holiday will be tapered, with the threshold being lowered to £250,000 until 30 September, before resuming its normal level of £125,000.

Market still has “spring in its step”

Jonathan Hopper, chief executive of agent Garrington Property Finders, said: “This was the moment the pace of property sales jumped from brisk to breakneck.”

“Clearly February’s extraordinary numbers are unlikely to be repeated,” he added.

“Almost 50 per cent more homes were sold during the month compared to the same time last year, and the spike in completions was the result of a ‘sprint finish’ as countless buyers strained every sinew to hit the finishing tape before the Stamp Duty deadline.

“Now the chancellor has moved the finish line back by several months, the pace is unlikely to stay quite as breathless. But the combination of a strong pipeline of would-be buyers, a gradual rolling back of lockdown and a growing sense of optimism should prove formidable.

“The sprint race may be over, but the market has plenty of spring left in its step.” 

Recovery and resilience

Tom Bill, head of UK residential research at Knight Frank said there was a “predictable spike n transactions” ahead of the stamp duty deadline.

“What is more surprising is that transaction numbers in the year to February were only down by 6 per cent.

“To put that in context, the property market was shut for 15 per cent of the year. One year on from the first national lockdown, the figures demonstrate the extent to which the housing market has recovered and shown its resilience through the pandemic.”