Plans to end the stamp duty holiday for residential homes over £125,000 has caused dismay in the property sector.
But experts say ending the relief, introduced at the onset of the Covid surge in spring 2020, may actually bring down house prices in the £125,000-range.
Undoubtedly, prices have gone up during the past 11 months of on-again-off-again lockdown as first-time buyers eye an alternative to renting and as many homeowners on public sector salaries find themselves with lots of extra cash to spend after a holiday-free year.
Depending on the locality, house prices have gone up between five and ten per cent over the past year. The stamp duty relief has fuelled the property stampede but as prices rise to accommodate rising demand, the increase can swallow up the stamp duty discount.
And higher prices mean some buyers have found getting a foot on the property market even more difficult.
British Chancellor Rishi Sunak says he is minded to end the stamp duty holiday by the summer of 2021 in response to the latest statistics indicating a boom in house prices and a rise in property transactions.
Estate agents say they have never been busier with the number of transactions in December 2019 significantly up on December 2019.
The good news for buyers is that the tight supply of homes is being eased by Airbnb operators who are now releasing their properties onto the market due to the collapse in tourism.
First-time buyer and civil servant Ciara Stuart, who has been working at home since March of last year, told belfastmedia.com that even a slight rise in price narrowed her options.
"I have been outbid a few times over recent months and while I have managed to save over £8,000 during lockdown — mainly because I haven't been going out, buying new clothes for the office or going on holiday — it seems that the money I have stored away is just about covering the price increase. The sweet spot for me would be for prices to fall now that I have a little nest egg saved up but they say that will only happen if there are mass redundancies and I wouldn't wish that on anyone."