If you buy a property, stamp duty is payable at 1 per cent of the purchase price on properties above pounds 30,000. When you swap your property with someone, if the difference in the two prices is more than pounds 30,000, stamp duty is paid only on the difference and then only by one party.
If the price difference is less than pounds 30,000, no stamp duty is payable even if you are swapping houses worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Bristol & West Property Services has launched a 'Home Exchange' service in 50 of its branches in London and the South-west.
The scheme tries to match suitable swappers. A proposed exchange does not prevent the property being sold in the traditional way. Legal and estate agency fees are the same as for traditional sales.
Jonathans Estate Agents in Witham, Essex, has a scheme whereby properties are 'exchanged' throughout the chain. It is a complicated idea.
A spokesman for Jonathans said: 'Put simply, a 'chain' of say four parties would result in three not paying stamp duty at all, and the first-time buyers receiving the benefit of the saving.'
Few exchanges take place at present, but Jonathans hopes that swap schemes will catch on with other estate agents.
If they do take off in a big way and the amount of duty collected drops dramatically, there could be a danger of a Treasury response. But John Samson, property partner with the solicitors Nabarro Nathanson, says there would need to be a change in the law, which he thinks is unlikely.Reuse content