With the Stamp Duty changes just six weeks away, landlords and second-home buyers are in a race against time to complete their purchases.
Lenders and agents are reporting a surge of panic buying.
Many will already have missed the boat to complete their purchases by midnight on March 31.
Specialist buy-to-let lender Keystone said that it is already too late.
It said that last Friday, February 12, was the latest it would take an application and expect it to be finished by the end of March.
Adrian Anderson of mortgage broker Anderson Harris warned: “It is a race against the clock, while there is also the Easter weekend to consider which falls on 25-28 March, and will only add to the time pressures.
“Everyone in the chain must be motivated to work towards the tight deadline.
“Buyers must instruct a solicitor who is able to work quickly. A mortgage broker is a must because they will be able to identify the lenders who can move quicker than others.
“However, borrowers should be prepared, as these lenders may not offer the cheapest mortgage rates.”
Robert Scott-Lee, managing director of south-based estate agent Chancellors, said: “Sadly, our expectation is that with lender and conveyancing delays, many will miss the deadline and this will create some disruption with sales falling through or renegotiations on price being attempted by some purchasers.”
Paul Smith, chief executive of Haart estate agents, said there is a critical shortage of valuers and conveyancers.
He said: “Currently the biggest hurdle to an efficient market is a shortage of professional skills.
“This shortage of talent is leading to delays in sales transaction as processes are taking much longer than usual.
“Currently it is a case of ‘all hands on deck’ to get buy-to-let transactions through before the 1st April, leaving owner-occupier transactions to progress much more slowly.”
Meanwhile, a residential property lawyer has warned that some home buyers are feeling confused and panicked by the April 1 deadline.
Alison Wacey, pictured, said the Government should not wait until Budget day to provide clarity on the of new Stamp Duty Land Tax rules.
Currently, the final details are not due to be provided until March 16 – two weeks before the 3% surcharge on second homes goes live.
Wacey, a partner in midlands law firm Lodders, said: “Confusion and panic amongst residential property owners is rife.
“The focus so far seems to have been on the impact of the changes on landlords and buy-to-let purchases.
“The people who have been overlooked are the private buyers of homes for their own occupation.
“In the last week, we have seen a huge spike in instructions from people desperate to complete purchases before the end of March.
“This panic is only going to increase without the Government providing much-needed clarity as a matter of absolute urgency.”
Wacey said that the ‘forgotten many’ include couples buying a home before they have sold their existing house; parents or grandparents buying a home for their children; and anyone buying a second home such as a holiday cottage.
The April 1 changes could also hit buyers of cheaper second homes: for a property bought at £125,000, an extra £3,750 will be payable, despite the fact that if this was a single home, there would be no Stamp Duty.
Wacey went on: “A husband and wife is seen as one unit when it comes to SDLT on property purchases, and this is a real issue and area of confusion.
“The Government hasn’t made the tax liabilities clear for such a single unit, who in my experience are very often parents buying a home for children to live in whilst at university or to help them get on to the property ladder, or people who find themselves temporarily with two homes whilst the sale of their existing home completes.
“It is these types of scenarios that fall outside of the easier definitions of investment or buy-to-let purchasers.
“SDLT will be due immediately on the purchase of a second home and there will then be an 18-month window in which to sell the second property and claw back the Stamp Duty from HMRC.
“This is an additional challenge as actually securing tax refunds can frequently be a long drawn out and frustrating process that in turn leaves individuals out of pocket until the matter is concluded.”