Over the course of a normal year, activity in the UK housing market can generally be split into the two periods of spring and autumn.This year, it will divide neatly into four calendar quarters.
The first quarter saw the false start of a stamp duty holiday that was deferred four weeks before it was due to expire at the end of March. The second quarter will bring the end of the holiday for many in June while the third quarter will see the tapered rate disappear in September. There will be no holiday during the final quarter.
In effect, 2021 will be a case study for how differing rates of stamp duty impact the property market.
The holiday is part of the government’s attempts to boost the UK economy as it recovers from the pandemic. A maximum stamp duty saving of £15,000 will taper from the end of this month to £2,500 in September. So far, its impact has been substantial.
UK transaction numbers reached a record level in March, the month of the false start, taking the total annual spend in the housing market to levels not seen since before the global financial crisis. Sales that had been lined up to complete went ahead anyway, irrespective of the announcement on 3 March that the end of the holiday had been deferred.
Transaction numbers then fell by 36% in April, provisional HMRC data shows. It was the third largest monthly decline on record even though it followed a deadline that did not ultimately materialise. The biggest monthly drop was recorded in April 2020 as the country entered its first national lockdown. The second largest decline was in April 2016, the month a 3% stamp duty surcharge was introduced for second-home owners and landlords. The fourth largest drop was in January 2010 following the end of a previous stamp duty holiday.
The impact of stamp duty on transaction numbers is clear. Indeed, there are parallels between 2016 and 2021, with both years experiencing a spike in March followed by a drop in April, as the chart below shows. Ahead of the stamp duty holiday expiring on 30 June, there is every reason to believe there will be a second large spike in transactions this month.