Homes costing between pounds 30,000 and pounds 250,000 will lose the exemption from 1 per cent stamp duty after next Wednesday 19 August.
Transactions that go through before Thursday will escape the duty. In theory home buyers do not have to have formally completed to qualify for the temporary lifting of stamp duty, only to have 'executed' the documents. This means the documents must be signed and handed over so there is no going back on the transaction. The handing over of the keys and money could come later.
But if a mortgage is needed to buy the property then the lender will probably insist on vacant possession, so this halfway option is not a viable proposition.
Solicitors have been rushing to get purchases through by the deadline. Jennifer Israel, who works in Whetstone, north London, said some clients had been exchanging and completing on the same day. But she added that she had been trying to persuade clients not to rush through purchases. 'It can be a false economy. The property market is still dropping. This is an artificial boom. They could get 5 per cent off the price because of the way the market is moving, never mind 1 per cent.'
Roger Ennals of Sparling Benham & Brough in Colchester, Essex, said he thought people who had not completed by this weekend would be unlikely to make the deadline. 'You have to get the money out of your lender and some require a week's notice, although others will move much faster.'
David Goldsworthy, president elect of the National Association of Estate Agents, which is lobbying the Government to abolish stamp duty, said: 'A lot of people are rushing for 19 August. What will happen after that I don't know. Sales which miss the deadline may go through anyway, but buyers may demand money off to compensate them for having to pay the stamp duty.'
Anyone who manages to get the legal part of home buying sewn up by the 19th may still have trouble finding a removal van.
Chris Bishop of Bishops Move said: 'It's crazy. We are working weekends and nights and we have still had to turn down customers. We warned the Government about this. It's just like the Lawson boom all over again.'
Home movers are having to pay a lot more at weekends, when crews are paid double.
Any stamp office will be able to help. Tel: 071 438 7452/7314 (London); 021 200 2616 (Birmingham); 031 556 8511 (Edinburgh).
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