Buy-to-let Watch: Take up the stamp duty chase

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It is all hands on deck to get buy-to-let cases completed before the stamp duty surcharge comes into play on 1 April 

Anyone submitting a buy-to-let purchase application with a lender today has probably left it too late to get the case completed before the 3 per cent stamp duty surcharge on additional residential property purchases is introduced on 1 April.

Below are the average processing times over the past 13 months:

Vanilla buy-to-let

From opening a case to completion: 85 days

From mortgage offer to completion: 51 days

Residential investment (including HMOs, multi-lets and multi-units)

From opening a case to completion: 110 days

From mortgage offer to completion: 62 days

Since the stamp duty charges were announced in December buy-to-let purchase applications have had to come first and it is currently all hands on deck to try to ensure success in the majority of cases. Most clients are all too aware of the impending changes. Many have brought purchases forward and are doing all they can to help expedite the process.

But keeping clients on track is the relatively easy part. They are anxious to save as much money as possible and that requires them to make decisions quickly.

Brokers also have to keep on top of lenders, enquiring about current processing times and ensuring they have received and acted upon information supplied. We have also been hot on making sure valuations are instructed and carried out as soon as possible. Is there a backlog with valuers? In our experience, no. From what we have seen, valuers are performing well, not falling over under the pressure.

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Our major concern is that solicitors will drop the ball. Granted this has not really happened yet, but we are still a month out from April. While we would expect the lenders to have prepped their own legal representatives, we are worried clients’ solicitors are less prepared.

But what can you do? We are advising our clients to chase, chase and chase again. We are asking them to ensure their solicitors are not only instructing the searches in a timely manner but are also chasing them for the results.

Clients must also chase their solicitors to send the Certificate of Title to the lender. Without this, no funds can be released. Remember, lenders have differing notice periods for requesting funds and, with Easter at the end of March, we must be even more on our toes so as not to fall at the last hurdle.

David Whittaker is managing director at Mortgages for Business