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Mortgage choice jumps to 11-month high

Borrowers now have the greatest number of mortgages to choose from since the first national lockdown came into force last March.

Mortgage choice has reached its highest level for 11 months as lenders launch a raft of new deals.

There are currently 3,215 mortgages to choose from, such as fixed rate and tracker mortgages, with different terms, interest rates and incentives.

That’s the highest number since March 2020, when the first national lockdown came into force. There were 5,222 mortgages in the market at that point.

And since October, the number of mortgages available has increased by 42%, the biggest four-monthly rise in choice since 2007, according to financial information group Moneyfacts.

Why is this happening?

Mortgage choice fell sharply in the first half of 2020, as lenders withdrew their mortgages while they reassessed the level of risk that they were prepared to take in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Borrowers with only small deposits were hit particularly hard, with nine out of 10 mortgages for people borrowing 90% of their home’s value withdrawn between March and the end of June.

But the fact that choice is improving again, particularly for people with small deposits, suggests lenders are now less risk averse, while stable interest rates point to increased competition in the market.

Who does it affect?

First-time buyers

There was good news for first-time buyers, with the number of mortgages available to people with just a 10% deposit rising to 248, 88 more than in January.

First-time buyers have not only seen an increase in product choice, with the number of deals available for those with a 10% deposit nearly quadrupling during the past four months, but interest rates on the mortgages have also fallen.

In a further sign that competition is returning to this sector of the market, the average cost of a two-year fixed rate loan for someone borrowing 90% of their home’s value fell by 0.09% during the past month, while the cost of a five-year fixed rate deal dropped by 0.07%.

Despite these improvements, choice remains very limited for people with only a 5% deposit, with just five deals currently available, down from eight in January.

Existing homeowners

There is also good news for home-movers and people looking to re-mortgage, as the number of different deals available to choose from has increased significantly, with nearly 500 different mortgages available for people borrowing 60% of their home’s value.

The cost of a mortgage has also fallen for people with large equity stakes of at least 40% in their home.

After being on a steady upward trajectory during much of the second half of last year, interest rates charged on a two-year fixed rate mortgage for these borrowers have dropped by 0.05%, while rates on five-year fixed rate deals have fallen by 0.07%.

What’s the background?

In a further sign that the mortgage market is stabilising after a turbulent year, the number of days for which individual mortgages are available before lenders withdraw them rose from 28 days in January to 40 days.

The move is good news for potential borrowers as it gives them a better chance to secure the deal they want before lenders replace it with a different offer.

Eleanor Williams, finance expert at Moneyfacts, said: “This, coupled with overall average rates remaining quite static and availability continuing to improve, could imply the mortgage market is now the most stable it has been since the onset of the pandemic last year.”

Top three takeaways

  • Mortgage choice has reached its highest level for 11 months as lenders launch a raft of new deals
  • There are 3,215 different mortgages to choose from, a 42% increase since October
  • The number of mortgages available to people with just a 10% deposit rose to 248, 88 more than in January

MPs debate stamp duty holiday

With the stamp duty holiday due to end on 31 March, Parliament has debated an extension. Here’s what it means if you’re planning to buy or sell a home.

A petition calling for the stamp duty holiday to be extended has received more than 100,000 signatures, triggering a debate to be held in Parliament.

Responding on behalf of the government, financial secretary to the Treasury, Jesse Norman, said that he could not comment on tax policy outside of a fiscal event, such as a Budget.

He added: “The government will continue to listen carefully to representations from the industry and from those who are planning to buy or sell a property.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced in July last year that homes costing up to £500,000 would be exempt from the tax.

It is estimated that nine out of 10 people purchasing a property since the announcement have not had to pay stamp duty, saving an average of £4,500 each.

But as the 31 March deadline for the end of the holiday looms, there have been industry calls for it to be extended.

Responding in December to the petition, the government said: “As the relief was to provide an immediate stimulus to the property market, the government does not plan to extend this relief.

“Stamp duty is an important source of government revenue, raising several billion pounds each year to help pay for the essential services the government provides.”

What’s the background?

The stamp duty holiday was introduced by Sunak in a bid to boost the housing market in England and Northern Ireland during the coronavirus pandemic.

Under normal circumstances, buyers pay stamp duty land tax when buying a property worth £125,000 or more, although first-time buyers only have to pay it on homes above £300,000.

The introduction of the stamp duty holiday raised the threshold at which the tax kicks in to £500,000 for all buyers, amounting to a potential saving of up to £15,000.


Can I still buy before the stamp duty holiday ends?

Yes, but you’ll need to move fast. The time it takes between agreeing a sale and completing is normally just under 100 days.

Our research shows that only 54% of sales agreed in January will complete in time, with that figure dropping to 17% in February.

From getting your paperwork lined up in advance, to smoothing out any wrinkles that may disrupt your property chain, here are our top tips to help you beat the deadline.

What happens when the stamp duty holiday ends?

Once the stamp duty holiday ends on 31 March next year, the former stamp duty rules will apply.

This means buyers can be charged between 2% and 12% tax (or up to 17% if they are a foreign investor) on their property purchase, depending on the value of the home they are buying and if they own more than one property.

“The government is committed to supporting home ownership and helping people get on and move up the housing ladder,” it said.

“When the stamp duty holiday ends, the government will maintain a stamp duty relief for first-time buyers which increases the starting threshold of residential stamp duty to £300,000 for first-time buyers that purchase a property below £500,000.”

How much stamp duty will I pay after 31 March 2021?

Stamp duty is calculated as a percentage of the property you are buying. It applies to freehold and leasehold properties, whether you’re buying outright or with a mortgage.

For existing homeowners, the rates are:

  • 0% up to £125,000
  • 2% on £125,001-£250,000
  • 5% on £250,001-£925,000
  • 10% on £925,001-£1.5m
  • 12% on any value above £1.5m.

For example, if you buy a flat for £275,000, the stamp duty you owe would be:

  • 0% on the first £125,000 = £0
  • 2% on the next £125,000 = £2,500
  • 5% on the final £25,000 = £1,250

Total stamp duty = £3,750

First-time buyers after 31 March 2021

Stamp duty relief was introduced in November 2017 for first-time buyers to help people step onto the property ladder.

First-time buyers are exempt from stamp duty on properties costing up to £300,000 and pay 5% on the value of a property between £300,000 and £500,000.

A first-time buyer will pay:

  • 0% on the first £300,000
  • 5% on the remainder up to £500,000

So a first-time buyer purchasing a £275,000 flat would pay no stamp duty.

For a house costing £475,000, a first-time buyer would pay:

  • 0% on the first £300,000 = £0
  • 5% on the final £175,000 = £8,750

Total stamp duty = £8,750

However, if the purchase price is more than £500,000, first-time buyers cannot claim the relief and must pay the standard rates.

For example, a property purchased at £700,000 would result in a stamp duty bill totalling £25,000 even for a first-time buyer.

Landlords and second-home owners

For owners of more than one property, a surcharge of 3% on top of the standard stamp duty rates apply.

However, if you sell a home within three years of purchasing a second property, you can apply for a refund of that 3%.

It is also possible under some circumstances to claim multiple dwellings relief.

What about non-UK residents?

From April 2021, an additional 2% stamp duty levy will be imposed on non-UK residents who buy property in England and Northern Ireland.

It means that international buyers of second homes could pay up to 17% tax on expensive properties.

The 2% is on top of standard rates and in addition to the 3% surcharge for any investors who own property elsewhere.

What other government support is available?

During the second lockdown, the government extended its offer of mortgage payment holidays. Those who need help paying their mortgages can still request a holiday of up to six months until 31 March 2021.

To help first-time buyers get on the property ladder, the government’s Help to Buy scheme offers an equity loan of up to 20% of the property value (40% in London). As long as you can raise a 5% deposit, you can then apply for a standard mortgage to pay the remaining amount.

At the Conservative party conference in October, Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged to “turn generation rent into generation buy” and announced plans for a new scheme to give more people the chance to take out long-term fixed rate mortgages for up to 95% of their home’s value – although details have not yet been released.

What about stamp duty in Scotland and Wales?

Housing is a devolved issue in Britain so stamp duty only applies in England and Northern Ireland.

Scotland and Wales have equivalent taxes:


From April 2015, Stamp Duty was replaced by Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) in Scotland.

In Scotland, the LBTT rates are:

  • 0% up to £145,000
  • 2% on £145,001-£250,000
  • 5% on £250,001-£325,000
  • 10% on £325,001-£750,000
  • 12% on any value above £750,000

First-time buyers pay no LBTT up to £175,000.


Property owners in Wales have paid Land Transaction Tax (LTT) since April 2018.

LTT rates are:

  • 0% up to £180,000
  • 3.5% on £180,001-£250,000
  • 5% on £250,001-£400,000
  • 7.5% on £400,001-£750,000
  • 10% on £750,001-£1.5 million
  • 12% on any value above £1.5 million

In December, the Welsh government introduced an additional charge for second-home owners.

Second home-owners will now pay a 4% levy when they buy homes up to £180,000, rising to 16% for homes worth £1.6m or above.

By Property News team

February 2, 2021 Zoopla

Coronavirus: latest property market news, information and advice

Coronavirus: latest property market news, information and advice

By Nicky Burridge for Zoopla

The Prime Minister has announced a new national lockdown in England in a bid to control soaring coronavirus cases.

People are only allowed to leave home for limited reasons, while non-essential shops and schools must close. Similar measures have been introduced in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The housing market will remain open, and people can continue to buy, sell, rent or let properties, as long as government guidelines are followed.

Mark Hayward, chief policy advisor at industry body Propertymark, said: “We welcome the news that the housing market is to remain open throughout this new lockdown period, but it is essential that all agents continue to play their part in reducing the spread of the virus by following all relevant guidance on how to safely conduct viewings.”

Experts suggest the new restrictions are expected to remain in place until the middle of February and will only be lifted if the pressure on hospitals improves.

Will the housing market stay open?

Yes, the housing market will remain open. Viewing a property or moving home has been classed as one of the limited exceptions under which people are allowed to leave their home under the new guidance.

Other services required for the home buying, selling and moving process, such as solicitors, valuers, surveyors and removals firms, can also continue to operate.

But it is important to note that social distancing measures must be observed when viewing properties or moving home.

Will estate agents stay open?

Estate agents and letting agents will remain open but members of the public will have to follow certain rules if they want to visit their offices.

For example, you may be required to make an appointment and you must wear a suitable face covering during the visit.

If you want to list your property for sale or rent, agents can still visit your home to take photographs and measurements, but social distancing measures must be followed, such as wearing a suitable face covering, keeping internal doors open and staying two metres away from people who are not part of your household.

If you or any member of your household is showing symptoms of Covid-19 or are self-isolating, estate agents and potential buyers should not visit your property in person.

Can I still view properties?

If you are looking to buy or rent a new home, you can continue to view properties, as long as social distancing measures are followed, including wearing a suitable face covering.

Viewings can only be done by appointment and ‘open house’ viewings are not allowed.

You should wash your hands regularly or use hand sanitiser and avoid touching surfaces wherever possible. If you can, it is better not to bring children with you.

All internal doors of the property being viewed should be left open, and surfaces, such as door handles, should be cleaned after each viewing. Windows should be kept open to ensure maximum ventilation.

It is also recommended that property owners wait outside while viewings are taking place to minimise unnecessary contact.

Many estate agents will be offering online or virtual viewings in the first instance and it is recommended that people only view a property in person if they are seriously considering making an offer on it.

Similar measures apply to the viewing of show homes.

What does the new lockdown mean if I am moving home?

Home moves are allowed to go ahead but people outside of your household or support bubble should not help with the move.

Removal firms can continue to work during the latest lockdown, however, social distancing measures must be observed to help keep everyone safe.

These measures include doing as much packing as you can yourself, cleaning your belongings before removals workers arrive, keeping internal doors open and ensuring a distance of two metres is kept between you and the removers where possible.

Everyone should wash their hands regularly or use hand sanitiser and avoid touching surfaces.

You should not provide refreshments for removers, but should ensure they have access to handwashing facilities, as well as separate towels or paper towels on which to dry their hands.

You are allowed to spend a night in a hotel or other similar accommodation while you are in the process of moving home if necessary.

The government has asked people to be as flexible as possible and be prepared to delay moves if someone involved in the process needs to self-isolate or if someone in the property you are moving into has Covid-19.

Borrower choice for 90% mortgages doubles as lenders return to the market

Borrower choice for 90% mortgages doubles as lenders return to the market

By: Lana Clements of Mortgage Solutions 27/11/2020


Borrowers looking to access 90 per cent loan to value (LTV) mortgages now have almost double the choice compared to September, as lenders have started stepping back into the market, analysis for Mortgage Solutions has shown.


There are 80 mortgage products available to borrowers today with a deposit or equity of 10 per cent required, according to Moneyfacts. At the start of September, there were only 44 deals available on the same basis.


In the past week alone, the number has jumped from 65 to 80, the data revealed. Atom Bank, TSB and Platform are among the lenders to have added 90 per cent LTV mortgages to the market this week and Nationwide announced they would expand lending at this level beyond first-time buyers.


The market for high LTV lending collapsed as the pandemic struck earlier this year, leaving many borrowers who could not scrape together bigger deposits with no option but to delay transactions. In recent months, some lenders returned to 90 per cent LTV lending for short stints of just a couple of days or, in some cases, only hours in an effort to manage volumes.

As more lenders filter back into the space, the pressure appears to be easing. However, lending at 95 per cent LTV remains very limited with still only eight products currently on the market.


Eleanor Williams, spokeswoman at Moneyfacts, said: “It is really encouraging that we are beginning to see more lenders relaunch products in the 90 per cent LTV bracket, especially for those borrowers with lower levels of deposit or equity who may have felt they had little to no options to move forwards with of late. We have seen a few lenders put their toe into the water of high LTV lending with short-term, limited edition products which were only on offer for a day or so, therefore seeing further providers enter this arena could be demonstrating that mortgage providers are managing their operational demands and are keen to cater to these borrowers.”


Borrowers who are keen to take advantage of one of these 90 per cent LTV deals are recommended to secure the support and guidance of a qualified, independent adviser who will be aware of the most up to date products available and be on hand to help borrowers navigate the mortgage maze.

Could the stamp duty holiday be extended?

Could the stamp duty holiday be extended?

Industry groups push for six-month extension as buyers and sellers face delays

By Stephen Maunder for Which

Estate agents, surveyors and solicitors are pleading with the government to extend the current stamp duty holiday by a further six months, as homebuyers face a race against time to get their moves over the line.

Mortgage approvals and legal work are progressing slowly as lenders and lawyers struggle to keep up with demand from movers looking to benefit from savings of up to £15,000.

Here, we explain how the stamp duty cut has energised the property market and discuss whether the government could extend the deadline beyond 31 March 2021.

Stamp duty holiday brings demand and delays

In July, the government temporarily introduced higher stamp duty thresholds as it sought to encourage home moves after the COVID-19 lockdown. This means movers can save as much as £15,000 if they buy a home before 31 March 2021.

The cut has certainly reignited the market, but the rush to buy before the deadline has resulted in delays. Estate agents, lenders, surveyors and conveyancers are all facing huge pressure on resources, resulting in everything from mortgage valuations to legal formalities taking longer than before.

Zoopla says that around 140,000 property sales are currently in the pipeline – double the number usually seen at this time of year. The property portal says 92% of sales agreed in November and 81% of sales agreed in December are completed before the end of the following March in a normal year – but this year is anything but normal.

So those waiting until after Christmas to make an offer may face disappointment, with only half of sales agreed in January normally getting over the line before the end of March.

Industry calls for stamp duty extension

Earlier this week, a group of property professionals united to write to the Chancellor to request that the stamp duty deadline be extended. The joint letter is signed by 14 trade bodies, including estate agency, surveying, conveyancing and removals associations. The group is requesting that the government extends the stamp duty holiday by at least six months, and has asked for an announcement to be made before Christmas.

Mark Hayward of the estate agency group NAEA Propertymark says: ‘The stamp duty cliff edge on 31 March could cause thousands of sales to fall at the final hurdle and have a drastic effect on the housing market. We are calling for a rethink of these timings, so pressure on the system can be released to allow transactions to complete and avoid a disorderly and distressing period for movers and businesses.’

Will the stamp duty cut be extended?

So far, the government has maintained that the 31 March deadline won’t be extended. Last week, in response to a question in the House of Commons, housing minister Christopher Pincher told MPs: ‘The government does not plan to extend stamp duty relief, and will continue to monitor the property market.’

It remains to be seen whether the pleas from the industry will prompt the government into a rethink.

What can you do to speed up your move?

Last month, the Home Buying and Selling Group, which is made up of professionals from across the property industry, published a pledge to help moves progress more quickly. It also provided advice for buyers and sellers on some simple steps they can take to speed up their transactions.

For buyers, it recommends appointing your conveyancer and getting a mortgage agreement in principle before making an offer, and arranging a house survey soon after the offer has been accepted.

For sellers, it advises instructing conveyancers at the same time as putting the property on the market (rather than after an offer is accepted), and completing the property information form ahead of time so any issues can be raised at the earliest opportunity.

Stamp duty holiday: how it works

In July, the government announced that it would raise the threshold for paying stamp duty on property purchases from £125,000 to £500,000 in England and Northern Ireland.

With first-time buyers already benefiting from a £300,000 allowance, home movers purchasing more expensive properties stand to make the biggest savings. These buyers can save £10,000 on a £400,000 property, or £15,000 on a £500,000 property.

In Scotland and Wales, the savings are less significant, with the stamp duty thresholds having only been increased to £250,000.

What’s happening to house prices?

House prices have been increasing as buyers flood to the market, especially at price-points where the tax savings are the greatest. Overall, values have remained robust, with the latest data from the Land Registry showing that prices increased by 0.7% month-on-month and 2.5% year-on-year in August.

The property portal Rightmove has reported asking prices rising to record levels, but it’s important to remember that the prices sellers are requesting don’t necessarily reflect those that buyers are paying.

Bank of England eyes negative interest rates: what it could mean for you

As the Bank of England explores the possibility of introducing negative interest rates, we take a look at the impact such a move would have on people taking out mortgages.

What’s happening?

The Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee is exploring how negative interest rates could be implemented.

Such a move would mean entering a ‘topsy-turvy’ world in which institutions are charged for depositing cash with the Bank instead of being paid interest on it.

The Bank has recently written to the UK’s banks asking them what steps they would need to take to be ready for the introduction of negative interest rates.

Despite this flurry of activity, the Bank has been at pains to stress that it is currently only considering negative interest rates as part of its “policy toolkit”.

It is expected to put in place other measures to support the economy before taking the drastic step of introducing negative interest rates.

Even so, markets have priced in a possible move to negative rates in the spring of next year.

What does this actually mean?

Negative interest rates mean that instead of the Bank paying commercial banks interest on the money they deposit with it, it would instead charge them money.

So, for the sake of argument, if the base rate was cut from its current level of 0.1% to -0.1%, instead of earning interest of 0.1% on their deposits, commercial banks would be charged interest of 0.1% by the Bank.

Such a move would potentially impact consumers as high street banks base the interest they pay on savings accounts and charge on certain mortgages on the Bank’s base rate.

Why is the Bank of England considering taking rates below zero?

The theory is that charging banks to deposit money encourages them to lend money to businesses and consumers, rather than hold it in reserve.

The easier and cheaper it is for businesses to borrow money, the more likely they are to do so.

The way they spend this money, such as investing in new machinery or expanding their businesses, helps to boost the economy and support employment.

What impact could it have on consumers?

While negative interest rates will have an impact on borrowing costs, it is highly unlikely that customers will be paid by their bank to borrow money.

People with fixed rate mortgages will not see any impact on their monthly repayments, as these are set for the term of the mortgage.

Those with tracker deals, which move up and down in line with the Bank’s base rate, could see a drop in their repayments but are unlikely to not be charged any interest at all.

The reason for this is that trackers charge interest at a set percentage, such as 1%, above the base rate, meaning the base rate would need to be deep into negative territory before mortgage rates followed suit.

Many tracker deals also include clauses, known as collars, stating that the interest charged will never fall below a certain level.

There has only been one case of mortgage customers receiving negative interest rates, which occurred in 2019 when Danish lender Jyske Bank offered a rate of -0.5% a year.

Even then, borrowers were not paid by the bank, with it instead reducing their outstanding mortgage debt each month by more than the amount they repaid.

While borrowers in the UK are unlikely to benefit from a similar scenario, negative interest rates are still likely to lead to lower mortgage rates.

The news is less good for savers, who are likely to earn lower interest or even no interest on the money they have deposited with banks.

But it is unlikely most consumers will have to pay to keep their savings in an account, with banks expected to limit charges on deposits to large corporations and very wealthy individuals.

What knock-on effect could it have on the housing market?

As a general rule, low borrowing costs support the housing market by making it cheaper for buyers to borrow larger sums.

With the UK already facing a mismatch between the supply of homes and demand for them, lower borrowing costs are likely to lead to higher house prices.

That said, the Bank is considering introducing negative interest rates because the coronavirus pandemic has created an extraordinary economic situation, so any boost to the housing market may be tempered by lower consumer confidence and rising unemployment.

When was the last time we had negative interest rates?

In its 326-year history, the Bank has never previously introduced negative interest rates.

But central banks in Europe and Japan have had them in place for some time.


We explain the government’s rating system and what it means if you’re trying to buy or sell a home this winter.

We explain the government’s rating system and what it means if you’re trying to buy or sell a home this winter.

By Nicky Burridge

October 13, 2020 Zoopla

Parts of England have been plunged back into lockdown after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced new measures to help combat the coronavirus pandemic.

The government is adopting a simplified three-tier system, under which restrictions will apply on a local basis according to the severity of Covid-19 outbreaks.

The move comes as the property market enjoys a strong rebound with solid price growth as buyer demand, which built up during lockdown, continues to work its way through the system.

Under the government’s new advice, estate agents remain open and physical property viewings are still allowed across England, with a strict bookings process in place and comprehensive advice on how to follow social distancing guidelines inside properties.

While the latest lockdown measures may make viewing properties more difficult in some areas, they are unlikely to dent the current high level of interest from potential buyers.

Richard Donnell, our head of research and insights, said: “We’ve already seen how lockdown led to people carrying out a once-in-a-lifetime re-evaluation of their homes and lifestyles, with a focus on prioritising space. And the latest restrictions will continue to support this trend – particularly for those who are more financially secure.”

Meanwhile, the stamp duty holiday is continuing to act as an incentive for buyers to complete a purchase before it comes to an end on 31 March 2021.

As a result, if you want to sell your home, the current measures are unlikely to deter potential buyers.

The government is encouraging the use of virtual viewings before visiting properties in person in order to minimise public health risks, and socially distant viewings will continue to be the norm.

What the different tiers mean:

Tier 1 – medium alert

In tier one areas all businesses and venues can continue to operate in a Covid-secure way, other than those that are currently closed by law, such as nightclubs.

Schools, universities and places of worship can remain open, and indoor sport and exercise classes can continue to take place. People must not meet in groups of more than six either indoors or outdoors.

Property viewings can continue to take place as long as anti-coronavirus measures are taken and there are no more than six people in the property at one time.

Such measures include the wearing of face coverings, regular hand washing, keeping doors and windows open for good ventilation during the viewing, and only two prospective buyers from the same household entering the property at a time.

Open house viewings are not allowed at this time.

If any member of either the household being viewed, or the household viewing, shows symptoms of Covid-19 or is self-isolating, then an in-person viewing should be delayed.

Most areas of England currently fall into this tier.

Tier 2 – high alert

Anyone living in a tier two area must follow all of the tier one rules, and also not meet with anybody outside of their household or support bubble in any indoor setting, including their home or a public place.

However, the current government advice states that in-person property viewings can still take place, with appropriate precautions. For the latest government advice in full check here.

Nevertheless, the ban on meeting people outside of your household or support bubble indoors means that some buyers or sellers may decide to suspend property viewings or only undertake them virtually.

Areas that fall into this tier currently include parts of Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Warrington, Derbyshire, Lancashire, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, the North East, Tees Valley, West Midlands, Leicester and Nottingham.

Tier 3 – very high alert

Tier three is reserved for areas where transmission rates of Covid-19 are causing the greatest concern.

People living in these areas are not allowed to meet anybody outside of their household or support bubble in an indoor or outdoor setting, apart from open public spaces such as parks and beaches, where the rule of six will still apply.

People are also advised not to travel in and out of these areas, other than for work, education, accessing youth services or caring responsibilities.

Restrictions in this tier are likely to have the biggest impact on the property market.

Although government guidelines don’t currently state that in-person viewings are banned in tier three regions, it can be assumed that in many cases estate agents, sellers and buyers will decide against going to see properties while restrictions are in place, unless they have no other option.

That said, renewed lockdown measures may also heighten people’s desire to move if they are unhappy with their current accommodation.

In England, tier three currently only applies to Liverpool and the surrounding area, where the housing market is currently on a strong footing with price growth driven by rising demand of 3.4% recorded in the year to the end of September.

What about Scotland and Wales?

Scotland introduced a raft of short-term new anti-coronavirus measures which started on 9 October and will run until 26 October.

They include not meeting people outside of your extended household in their home or inviting them to yours, and not gathering in groups larger than six people or from more than two households outdoors.

Indoor pubs and restaurants can only be open between 6am and 6pm and they cannot service alcohol, although outdoor ones can stay open until 10pm and can serve alcohol.

The rules apply to the whole of Scotland, with some additional measures also put in place across the central belt.

The Scottish government’s guidance on property viewings emphasises a virtual-first approach. This means in-person property viewings are permitted, but it is recommended that you view properties virtually in the first instance if possible and only proceed to a physical viewing if you are interested in offering on the property.

In Wales, 17 areas are currently under local lockdown, preventing people from leaving the area without a reasonable excuse and socialising with other households indoors, although people can continue to meet outdoors.

The advice from the Welsh government is that in-person viewings can still take place, also with an emphasis on virtual viewings in the first instance and strict guidelines for conducting viewings Covid-securely.

What do the new measures mean for estate agents?

Mark Hayward, chief executive, NAEA Propertymark comments: “The new three tier Covid restriction approach has not changed the guidance for estate agents.

All agencies should strictly adhere to all guidance previously issued by MHCLG and NAEA Propertymark, unless instructed otherwise in future.”


Nicky Burridge



Stamp duty holiday causes surge in property market

Stamp duty holiday causes surge in property market

Wednesday September 23 2020, The Times

Property transactions jumped in August as buyers took advantage of the government’s stamp duty holiday, official figures show. Sales rose by 15.6 per cent in the month after climbing by 14.5 per cent in July, according to data published by HM Revenue & Customs.


The property market has enjoyed a resurgence since coronavirus restrictions were eased in May. Buyers have flooded into the market and the release of pent-up demand is supporting prices.


In July the government introduced a temporary stamp duty holiday for residential properties worth up to £500,000. The relief — in place for the full financial year — is delivering an average saving of £4,500 per transaction.


“Every home sold means more jobs protected,” Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, said. “But this isn’t just about the housing market. Owners doing up their homes to sell and buyers reinvesting stamp duty savings to make their new house feel like a home are also firing up local businesses, supporting, creating and protecting jobs across the country.”


Joshua Elash, director of MT Finance, the property lender, said: “The significant rise in house sales in August compared with the previous month reflects a positive response to the chancellor’s stamp duty initiative but sadly, it is not sustainable.”

Government unveils details of First Homes scheme

Government unveils details of First Homes scheme

By Chloe Cheung

The government has set out how it plans to structure the First Homes scheme to provide discounted homes for first-time buyers in England.

The First Homes policy was first announced in the Conservative party’s manifesto in November. It promises a 30 per cent discount for first-time buyers who, according to the government, will save around £100,000 on the price of an average new-build property in England.

In a consultation outcome published today (August 6) the government confirmed that under the scheme properties must be marketed and sold at a discount of at least 30 per cent below market value.

However, acknowledging that in some parts of the country property prices were “very high”, the government said local planning authorities will be able to require a higher minimum discount of up to 50 per cent on first homes built in their area.

The authorities will also be able to set specific ‘local connection restrictions’ to help local people on the housing ladder, however these should be restricted to three months after the property goes on sale to avoid houses remaining unsold.

After that the properties should be open to all first-time buyers across England at a 30 per cent discount.

Eligibility requirements

Properties under the First Homes scheme will also be subject to a £250,000 price cap across England, while a higher cap of £420,000 will apply in London. Price caps will apply after the discount to all initial sales.

Local planning authorities will also be able to set lower price caps for the first three months of sale, as the government recognised that in some areas the caps “may not be an ideal fit for local housing market conditions and it may be challenging to target support for lower income groups where the price cap is high”.

In addition to caps on property prices, buyers looking to benefit under the scheme will be subject to household income caps of £80,000 across England and £90,000 in London. Again, local planning authorities will have the ability to set lower caps for the first three months of sale.

While the government intends to focus the scheme on first-time buyers “as a rule”, it said it recognised “compelling reasons for making allowances in certain, limited circumstances” to other buyers. It will publish a list of circumstances under which non-first-time buyers should be eligible in due course.

Impact on mortgages

Among the eligibility requirements set out by the government were that properties under the scheme should only be purchased with a mortgage or home purchase plan covering at least half of the purchase value.

Additionally, so that lenders can offer competitive rates on mortgage and home purchase plan finance, the government said a “mortgage protection clause” would be developed to provide “additional assurance” to lenders, including a waiver on the discount in certain circumstances if a property is repossessed.

Under the government’s plan, properties under the scheme will have a restrictive covenant against the title to ensure that relevant restrictions, including the original level of discount, are passed on to future buyers.

By Chloe Cheung


‘Build, build, build’ planning reforms to help key workers

Ministers want to make it harder for Nimbys to block new homes


Tim Shipman, Political Editor | Oliver Wright, The Times

Sunday August 02 2020, 12.00pm, The Sunday Times


Ministers will unveil a “blockbuster” planning revolution this week to fulfil Boris Johnson’s pledge that the government will “Build, build, build” and make it easier for key workers such as nurses to afford a home.

Robert Jenrick, the secretary of state for housing, communities and local government, will publish a policy paper on planning that will make it much more difficult for local authorities to block new development.

He told Times Radio today: “It will be much simpler and faster, and enable people to get on and build.”

The paper, entitled “Planning for the Future”, will also outline plans to use money from developers to give discounts of up to one-third off the cost of a house to local people.

The move would allow councils to prioritise housing for key workers such as police, nurses and teachers.

The main change outlined in the document is a new zoning system for planning approvals, which will take individual decisions over planning permission out of the hands of town hall chiefs.

Local plans will designate specific zones where new homes can be built and within them there will be a presumption that new houses get the go-ahead.

In order to placate existing local communities, Jenrick will introduce new “design standards” to ensure that properties which get the go-ahead in this way are in keeping with the style and design of existing properties.

He said that local councils would still have a say in where the developments took place, but the new measures would prevent problems in the current system where housing is turned down by planning committees, even when it is in areas designated for development in local plans.

“It will be a system, which places a demand on local areas to build the homes that they need,” he said. “But they will be able to choose where they’re built. They will choose how they categorise land, whether it’s land where it’s time to get on and build or land where it needs to be protected and passed onto future generations.”

The policy paper, which will be published towards the end of the week, will rule out changes to allow more building on green-belt land.

But it will introduce a new system of developer contributions to infrastructure, taking money from those who make huge profits by sitting on undeveloped land.

The government will take a greater proportion of “land value uplift” from developers and landowners to fund infrastructure benefits to win support locally for new housing.

That means new developments will come with road upgrades and facilities such as new GP surgeries, schools and shops that new communities need to be viable.

The Conservative election manifesto last year pledged: “We will amend planning rules so that the infrastructure — roads, schools, GP surgeries — comes before people move into new homes. We will ask every community to decide on its own design standards for new development, allowing residents a greater say on the style and design of development in their area.”

The paper will also help people who want to build their own homes find land locally and access the Help to Buy scheme.

A Tory source said: “Once a local plan is approved and the zoning is done, it is much harder to block new development. But the flipside is that the house in question will have to be in keeping with local designs and come with facilities for schools and doctors which make those attractive places to live and are not a drain on existing public services.”