It was around the 10th phone call with a removal company that I started to panic. Each one was fully booked. It was the same story with every “man and a van” service listed locally – and every self-drive rental van within 50 miles.
This is the chaos of trying to move home before the stamp duty deadline, in one of the busiest weeks in the history of the housing market.
Stamp duty, which has been paused on all properties up to £500,000, will resume on homes worth more than £250,000 after June 30. It means thousands of buyers are tussling for removal services and vying to get to the top of their conveyancer’s to-do pile. A delay of just 24 hours could cost up to £15,000, potentially meaning whole chains will collapse.
“We genuinely have no idea if we’ll complete before deadline and there’s two days to go,” says Dermot Hanney, 36, who’s moving from Canary Wharf to New Cross in London. “Missing the deadline changes the game, as effectively the prices are then reset. If you miss the deadline, you could be back to square one as things that were affordable suddenly aren’t.”
Hanney is “packed and ready to go,” but is still concerned his chain will fall through. “It’s frustrating to think that could happen, given it seems all the pieces are now there,” he says. “It’s just a question of if it can get through the queue.”
Daniel Rodger, 36, is moving with his wife and three children under six years old from Sutton in south London to Haywards Heath, West Sussex. He’s hoping to move on Tuesday – one day before the deadline – but last week, the removal company he’d booked pulled out.
“I made 100 plus calls for over four hours trying to find a removals company,” he says. “Responses fluctuated between sympathy and mocking laughter. Several companies said they’d never turned a job down in 10 years and they were doing that 20-25 times a day. A few companies confessed that people had been offering them double their rate to move by Wednesday.”
Rodger has been able to find a van through a friend, but there’s still the children’s schools to sort. He can’t register them until they’ve completed, so for now, the family are in limbo.
Others, like Gill Searl, 51, who’s moving from Peterborough to Stamford, have been forced to accept that they’ve missed the deadline. Searl’s house move was agreed in March, but conveyancers struggled to process the paperwork in time. “There has to be a better way of buying and selling, this method is ancient and not fit for purpose in 21st century Britain,” she says.
Searl’s new property is under the £250,000 stamp duty threshold, so she won’t take a financial hit from the delay, but others further up the chain will. The whole process has been “so stressful,” she says. In the end, it was a lack of removal vans – rather than the conveyancers – that meant the move couldn’t happen. She’s now hoping to move during the first week of July.
As for me, I’ve got no idea where I’ll be living by the end of this week, but I have found a man with a van via a local Facebook page. We’re praying for a conveyancing miracle. 2021, eh? What a year.