stamp duty

Diary of a high street conveyancer: 26th September 2022

Well, what a week. We had a Bank Holiday – or was it a Public Holiday? This meant that we had a four-day working week instead of five, therefore us conveyancers had to be more prepared than usual.

We had to make sure that not only had we sorted out those who had planned to move on Monday and rearranged their completion date, but we had also ensured that any request for funds/proposed completions for Friday were made earlier than usual and that everything was set up ready to complete with less time than we are used to.

Then, the Government threw a curveball at us. On Tuesday evening, I was watching the BBC News review of the next day’s papers, and was staggered to see the headline on The Times for Wednesday morning which said that the Government had plans for stamp duty – no other detail.

Coming into work on Wednesday morning, I was dreading another stamp duty “holiday”, and knew that there would be so many calls asking if I knew what was happening, also knowing that I could not really joke and tell clients that I did not have a direct line to the Treasury. Clients are stressed enough as it is without me joking about such things.

I have to admit, I felt sick and can only describe the feeling as some sort of post-traumatic stress – I knew I could not go through it again. If the changes were to be permanent, I could support those to some extent.

However, with the news on Thursday that there was to be a further increase in interest rates, I could not see how this tied in with any form of stamp duty change, whether temporary or permanent. It would seem as if the Government and the Bank of England were going in different directions.

The problem with an announcement about an announcement is that no one really knows what to say or do – and this meant that clients who were ready to exchange were delaying in the hope that they may potentially save some money. It leads to many discussions and telephone calls which, despite my best efforts to put clients’ minds at rest about what may or may not happen, do not help anyone.

So, on Friday morning, I was pleased that the announcement for a change in stamp duty was early so it did not disrupt the day. When it came, the announcement was not as bad as I think we had all been dreading and there was probably a collective sigh of relief among conveyancers.

I had read in one legal publication just that morning that there was “a collective groan of disappointment” among conveyancers when The Times reported a potential cut. The sigh of relief was probably louder.

The prospect of another holiday was real. It would have been the end of the road for many conveyancers, and I would have seriously considered whether I wanted to continue with an area of work I have enjoyed for many years.

This is written by a real high street conveyancer who wishes to remain anonymous. Read more in Today’s Conveyancer every week.

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