Specialist Finance Is the Key to Unlocking Property Investment Post-COVID

As the UK economy begins its gradual return to normalcy, creative finance solutions will be needed to ensure the process is painless.

Paresh Raja, CEO of Market Financial Solutions, examines the impact of the SDLT holiday so far and the importance of reinvigorating the property market.

With a value of £1,662 billion, the UK’s real estate market is a vital contributor to economic growth and productivity. That’s why the government’s plan to support the UK’s post-pandemic recovery has focused so heavily on real estate. After all, it was one of the first sectors to benefit from the initial easing of social distancing measures, ensuring that buyers and renters were once again in a position to move homes and initiate new property transactions.

Most recently, Chancellor Rishi Sunak took the bold step of announcing a new Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) holiday applicable to all property transactions until 31st March 2021. The government estimates that this will see average SDLT bill cut by £4,500, with nine out of 10 buyers purchasing a main residential home exempt from the tax.

The move aims to encourage buyers back to the real estate market, and so far, it has been having measured success. Estate agencies have noted a spike in enquiries – importantly, these enquiries range from first-time buyers to non-UK residents seeking a buy-to-let property. While it is too early to tell whether the holiday will bring about a stable and sustained increase in real estate transactions, the fact prospective buyers have acted immediately following the SDLT holiday announcement is promising.

With a value of £1,662 billion, the UK’s real estate market is a vital contributor to economic growth and productivity.

Unlocking the full potential of the SDLT holiday

The SDLT holiday provides the financial incentives needed to reignite interest in property, but one feels it will only have limited success. This is because homebuyers will still struggle when it comes to finding the right type of finance needed to complete on a sale.

When lockdown measures were first introduced, mainstream mortgage providers decided to retreat from the market by limiting their product and service offerings, freezing new applications and delaying the deployment of mortgages already agreed to in principle. This had dire consequences for those in the middle of a property transaction, increasing the risk of chains collapsing.

In response, brokers and borrowers turned to established specialist finance providers who remained committed to meeting the needs of the market. Bridging loans became a popular option due to their speed, flexibility and ability to be tailored to the individual needs of each borrower. While transactions did decline during lockdown, a proportion of those completed was due to specialist finance.

Now, banks and mortgage providers are once again returning to the market. However, the range of mortgage products available is still limited. There are also fears that these traditional lenders will only deploy loans for a handful of cases in order to minimise their risk exposure. Indeed, there are already reports of banks not deploying mortgages to borrowers who take advantage of the COVID-19 loan repayment holiday scheme.

Just like we saw in the aftermath of the global financial crisis (GFC), it is during times of economic recovery that the need for creative solutions that support growth and stimulate investment are needed. And similar to what we witnessed in the months and years following the GFC, specialist finance is rising to the call by ensuring that homebuyers are able to act confidently and quickly.

At this critical moment, it is important that buyers and property investors have access to the finance needed for new home purchases. This requires research and a full appreciation of all the products and services available beyond just the high street.

Failing this, there is a real risk of the SDLT holiday only having limited success.

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