Property prices on the rise as buyers race to beat tax deadline

Location, Location, Location presenter Kirstie Allsopp urges people to stop rushing to buy homes.

What The Sunday Times has described as a “property frenzy” is there for all to see.

In March, almost 191,000 homes were sold, according to figures published by HM Revenue & Customs, the highest number in a single month since July 2004.

The average asking price in the UK has now hit £327,797, an increase of more than £4,000 on the previous record set last October, according to the property website Rightmove.

Meanwhile, the estate agency Hamptons reports that one in seven homes sell before the estate agent has time even to put the details online.

This all spells very good news for estate agents, but what does it mean for the rest of us? Location, Location, Location presenter Kirstie Allsopp is one property expert who advises caution.

“I don't want to be a drama queen, but people should stop rushing to buy homes,” she told The Sunday Times.

Kirstie, who began filming a new series of the Channel 4 property series she presents with Phil Spencer last week, said she is “worried” by what she is seeing, with multiple people bidding for homes within days of them going up for sale.

“I’m back on the road making Location, Location, Location on the North Wales border, in Cheshire around Wilmslow. In both places, the market is scarily heated. Given the fact that 17% of people are still on furlough and the economic impact of Brexit and Covid is unknown, this feels troubling.”

Kirstie told the publication: “It used to be that I would go to Leeds one year and find a hot market, or Bristol the next year and find a hot market, but at the moment it seems to be hot everywhere.” 

“Which raises the question: was the government's stamp duty holiday needed? It has overheated the market and the government is giving away a lot of money at a time when it has spent a great deal. It needs that cash.”

The mother-of-three highlighted other concerns, including a potential rise in interest rates which could mean buyers may struggle to keep up their mortgage repayments.

Last July the Chancellor exempted most buyers from the stamp duty levy if they completed their transactions before March 31, 2021 - saving people up to £15,000 - and leaving would-be homeowners racing to meet the deadline. Rishi Sunak then used his spring Budget to extend the holiday by another three months.

The policy covers the sale of property worth up to £500,000, and will cost around £1billion to implement. It came amid concerns that not extending the holiday would create a cliff edge, jeopardising hundreds of thousands of sales.

Analysis by the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) think tank said the tax break had propelled house sales to their highest level since before the 2007 financial crisis.

Kirstie claimed that making financial decisions based on the fact you’re saving on commuting costs is “premature”, adding that should an employee be called back to the office, their travel expenditures will soar. 

She concluded by saying that if someone asked her whether they should buy now, she would urge them not to invest in anything that will radically change their lives.  

When evaluating whether it's a good choice, she encouraged would-be buyers to ask themselves how they and their family would manage if they had to start commuting to work again, and if interest rates surged by a couple of points.