There’s plenty to get to grips with if you’re thinking of moving this year, from a stamp duty holiday that could save you thousands, through to navigating online viewings. We take you through the need-to-knows.
1. Government support
First things first, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak has unveiled a stamp duty holiday that could save you up to £15,000 if you buy a property worth £500,000 or more. However, the tax cut runs until 31 March 2021 so you’ll need to act promptly.
The government has also extended the deadline of its Help to Buy equity loan scheme, which eligible buyers can use to buy a new-build home.
Previously, builders needed to have finished construction by the end of December for buyers to quality for the loan. But this timeframe has been pushed out to 28 February 2021, with the deadline for legal completion remaining at 31 March 2021, to help buyers whose plans have been delayed by coronavirus.
2. Mortgage availability
The number of mortgage deals shrunk in the wake of coronavirus, with many lenders pulling their high loan to value mortgages (in other words, loans for people borrowing a high proportion of the property’s value). This particularly impacted first-time buyers.
Our survey revealed that more than a third (35%) of people aged under 35 have had their home move delayed, driven in part by the withdrawal of 85%-plus loan-to-value mortgages.
But mortgage rates are, generally-speaking, very competitive, particularly at low loan to values.
The Bank of England made two emergency interest rate cuts in response to coronavirus and the base rate – which tends to influence the interest rates that lenders pass on to their borrowers – is now at a record low of 0.1%.
3. Housing market trends
The unprecedented nature of coronavirus means that it’s particularly tricky to predict what will happen in the housing market this year.
Keep an eye on our monthly House Price Index for expert insights from Zoopla Research.
Zoopla also has a range of free tools to help you get ahead of the game. You can create a MyZoopla account, which allows you to, among other things, set up email alerts to keep up to speed with your local market and eye-catching properties.
You can also use our house price estimates tool to get an instant value estimate of any property in the UK.
4. The new ‘normal’
Yes, the housing market is back open, but things have changed a little. Physical viewings are taking place but precautions are needed, so be prepared to go on virtual viewings in the first instance. NAEA Propertymark, the professional body for estate agents, advises against open house viewings.
Flexibility is key too. You may encounter delays if people in your chain or related to your transaction show coronavirus symptoms or need to self-isolate. Meanwhile, there is the possibility of further regional lockdowns.
5. Development angle
If you’re keen to roll up your sleeves, now could be a good time to buy a doer-upper. That’s because the government has proposed new rules to allow you to add two storeys to your home without the normal planning permission. The extension could either become part of the main home or a self-contained property, like a granny annexe.
The reform means that you could significantly expand the size of your home, and potentially miss out another rung of the housing ladder.
Permitted development rights are already in place to allow certain work to be carried out without planning consent.
6. Property searches
Lockdown has given many people a chance to take stock and re-evaluate their home and lifestyle. And with the housing markets now back open for business, it’s perhaps not surprising that buyer demand is shifting.
More than half of homehunters in our survey have changed their priorities since the start of the coronavirus lockdown.
Some 44% of those whose criteria have changed are now looking to move closer to the countryside, parks or the coast. And the under 35s have recorded the biggest shift in priorities, with one in five saying they’re more likely to compromise on features, such as prioritising private outdoor space over an additional bedroom.