Conveyancers have urged Chancellor Rishi Sunak not to extend the stamp duty holiday and instead focus on allowing those who have instructed a lawyer by a certain date to complete.
In a joint letter, the Conveyancing Association, Bold Legal Group and Society of Licensed Conveyancers (SLC) said the widely rumoured three-month extension to the holiday – which Mr Suank could announce in Wednesday’s Budget – would just create another “damaging” cliff edge that could freeze the property market.
While an extension would help some homeowners complete their transaction in time, it would then create “a further surge of buyers hoping to benefit from the savings and risk creating a new and bigger peak of activity at the end of such an extension and risk an unsustainable and fictitious increase in house prices”, they said.
They recommended instead that all purchasers who have “formally instructed their regulated solicitor/conveyancer” to act for them on the purchase of a specific property by a specified date – such as 28 February – should still be allowed to complete their purchase with the stamp duty concession, provided it took place within a period, like 12 months.
The letter said this solution was “simple to legislate” and fair for consumers. It would allow transactions to proceed at their natural pace while preventing “a stampede of homebuyers trying to take advantage of an extension”.
This cut-off would also allow the housing market “to revert to a state of normality straight away” while carrying virtually no risk of fraud.
According to figures released last week by estate agents’ body Propertymark, the average cost to their business of an aborted sale is £4,123, with agents also stating they wasted at least seven days of time. Consumers lost an estimated £1,571 from a failed sale.
Meanwhile, the Conveyancing Association, Bold Legal Group and SLC have joined forces with the Law Society and Chartered Institute of Legal Executives to create a conveyancing task force “to discuss, and where possible agree, on reform and enhancement of the conveyancing process for the benefit of consumers and lawyers alike”.
SLC chair Simon Law is chairing the task force. He said the five have worked together for many years and it made “eminent sense” to come together under a joint banner to “manage the transition into the digital future and identify opportunities for improving the process”.
He stressed that the members remained independent and accountable to their memberships – notably, neither the Law Society nor CILEx signed the letter to the Chancellor.
The group has, however, agreed a set of workstreams to progress the move to digital conveyancing, including: proof of identity, universal protocols, buyers and sellers property information forms, codes of practice, electronic signatures, lenders handbook requirement and review, property log books, fraud prevention protocols, property search review, vendor disclosure, and client communication enhancements and guidance.