March was a record-breaking month for the UK property market. A combination of factors, including the vaccine roll-out and stamp duty holiday, means it will also be a strong second quarter.
An important question is what happens after that as the stamp duty holiday tapers away. A closer look at what took place in March provides some clues.
Compared to March 2020, there was a 30% increase in the number of properties going under offer in England and Wales, according to OnTheMarket data.
There was some effect from Covid-19 towards the tail end of March last year, but the breakdown by price band is revealing:
- The £500,000 to £1 million price bracket experienced the biggest increase (57%) followed by £1 million to £1.5 million (40%).
- Below £500,000, the band in which the stamp duty holiday creates the largest saving, the increase was just 26%.
- Above £1.5 million there was a 10% rise in the number of properties going under offer.
The stamp duty holiday has been an important motivating factor for buyers but the figures show that it hasn’t boosted activity to a greater extent in lower-value markets. The maximum saving is £15,000 and although the tax-free threshold is £500,000, it is reasonable to assume it will be an important consideration for buyers up to £1 million.
Exchange data also shows the limited extent to which the holiday has distorted the market. The number of exchanges above £1.5 million increased by 56% in March versus the five-year average, Knight Frank data shows. Between £1 million and £1.5 million the jump was 89% and there was an increase of 64% between £500,000 and £1 million.
Furthermore, with the holiday in place for nine months, buyers and sellers have increasingly factored in the need for price flexibility. All of which suggests the brakes will be dabbed rather than slammed on when the stamp duty holiday eventually ends.