Use Lockdown Time Wisely

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When I last wrote in the Yorkshire Post at the beginning of December, there was the prospect of a
return to normality in 2021. The first approval of a number of vaccines proved to us all that a light
had finally appeared at the end of the proverbial tunnel. However, six weeks later, we are now in a
further national lockdown, Covid infection and death rates have increased and as I write, there is a
distinct possibility the housing market could be closed, at least in part. There is a call for house
viewings to be banned and in my opinion this is probably now a prudent and reasonable constraint
in the short term, particularly when you have the perverse situation at present that I can visit my
daughter to carry out a market appraisal of her house, but I cannot visit her separately to see my
young grandson.

Only time will tell if this happens. But if it does, perhaps it will give chance for everyone to catch up,
following the burst of activity that has largely resulted from the stamp duty holiday that is currently
due to end on March 31. A temporary and partial halt on the market would allow solicitors and
conveyancers to progress the large number of sales that have already been agreed, likewise the
mass of searches that are outstanding with many local authorities and delays being experienced by
many others involved in the house sales process such as lenders and surveyors.

All are under increasing pressure from buyers who understandably want to take advantage of a tax
saving of up to £15,000. I do hope the Chancellor will see the merits of tapering the end of the tax
holiday beyond the end of March, given many homeowners are only now realising that stamp duty
applies at the date a sale completes, not just exchanges. So, by allowing the tax point to apply at the
date of exchange, not completion, might be one way of relieving the pressure that is building on
existing sales that have already been agreed. It is inevitable that some transactions will not hit the
deadline, if some form of tampering is not introduced. To those who are caught in this frustrating
situation, please do not despair. Okay there may need to be a dose of realism on the part of buyer
and seller alike. But an added expense of up to £15,000 is very modest in the context of homes
costing many thousands of pounds. Surely this is capable of being absorbed between the parties if
they have the appetite to continue with the transaction.

And for those homeowners who are contemplating moving later in 2021, if the housing market is
subject to further lockdown rules, there might even be an unexpected upside, over and above the
potential health benefits. Why not take the time now to do those long promised decorative works,
but do you remember my past recommendation to maybe avoid avant-garde colour schemes. Think
about how you might improve first impressions. Yes I am talking about the decluttering that might
have actually increased in recent months. And even in the depths of winter, garden maintenance is
important. Please fix the fence that has come loose in the recent storms and maybe it is time to
finally clear the leaves that are still lingering from last autumn. None of these suggestions constitute
rocket science. But it’s surprising how many owners don’t quite get around to taking them on-board
until potential buyers give negative viewing feedback. So maybe now is the time. Keep safe and keep

Tim Waring FRICS is Head of Residential at Lister Haigh