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The SDLT ‘Cliff Edge’ is just one of thousands, isn’t it?

Updated: Nov 2, 2022

It is amazing to see so much chatter and debate about the SDLT deadline and how everyone is going to make it; whether it should be extended or feathered out or remain a ‘cliff edge’. But everyone appears to have forgotten that every single transaction has a ‘cliff edge’ irrespective of SDLT, that is invariably overlooked.

Every time a property transaction is agreed, both sides have expectations of timescale. These expectations could be based around any number of things such as, change of job, pregnancy due date, celebration date, bank holiday, summer holiday, change of school, Christmas, availability of a removal company; in fact, the list could be endless.

EVERY property transaction that is agreed has a ‘cliff edge’ built in, as both the buyer and the seller each have an expectation as to when they would like to move and why they expect to be able to move by that deadline. Unfortunately, these expectations are invariably ignored or seen as something to be negotiated.

As the SDLT deadline has shown, the industry has reverted to type and set out to negotiate the end date, rather than doing more to prepare transactions to hit the deadline. So the ‘cliff edge’ has been coined to really drive home the severity of the situation; a situation that each client has when any transaction is agreed, SDLT relief or not.

Many property businesses will say that not everything is in their control, and I would agree. But that does not mean to say that there is not so much more that the property sector can do to help the situation and better prepare clients for their move and enable them to meet with their own deadlines.

If home movers had a better comprehension of what needed to be achieved, they may be in a better place to agree that their own deadlines may not be realistic, overcoming any need to play the negotiation game, given that everyone is looking at the same data. Knowing your conveyancer and seeing how long transactions are taking in an area should be an indicator to STOP telling your local market that a completion by the SDLT deadline is achievable. But I am still seeing agents using the SDLT relief as a marketing strategy to garner new business, which is terribly sad to see, let alone unprofessional.

Many agents will start to ‘chase a sale’ asking a Conveyancer what is going on, when their own client is yet to even instruct them formally or complete their protocol forms or sign a client care letter, let alone put them in funds. Many of those clients will also truly believe that the conveyancer will start their transaction as soon as they give them verbal consent and a memorandum of sale has gone out. “Surely the conveyancer will request a contract from the vendor before I have sent them my paperwork, it’s in their best interest isn’t it?” No, it’s not. They will only work for the clients who have actually instructed them.

I had a conversation with one of our clients who had ordered their searches and asked me how long the conveyancing process would take. I asked them whether they had completed their paperwork and formally instructed their conveyancer. They said “No” and my answer was clear, “You will never move and the conveyancing will never get done unless you instruct them”. So I asked them how long they might take to complete and return their paperwork, given that that was the more prudent question at that time.

So, given that Estate Agents can have a conversation with their clients about expectation of timescale at the point of valuation, why is there not an appropriate measure taken to help that client to take steps to be better prepared to hit it as soon as they make the decision to come to the market?

The SDLT ‘Cliff Edge’ is not unique. Deadlines exist every day in every transaction and these deadlines are not going away, ever. So, change and better preparation has to be taken seriously or the industry will never make strides to become a profession and Estate Agents will continue to argue with conveyancers about why things should go faster.


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