Stamp duty free: three ways to avoid paying the property purchase tax on a home

·3-min read
Stamp duty isn’t payable on mobile homes, caravans and, in London, houseboats. (Daniel Lynch)
Stamp duty isn’t payable on mobile homes, caravans and, in London, houseboats. (Daniel Lynch)

The stamp duty holiday Rishi Sunak introduced during the pandemic is over but there are still some ways to avoid paying the property tax.

Buy your first home for less than £300,00

First-time buyers are exempt from stamp duty up to a threshold of £300,000 (for everyone else the tax kicks in above £125,000), so long as the property they are buying costs less than £500,000.

This saves first-time buyers £5,000. If the property you’re buying is slightly over the £300,000 threshold, it might be worth negotiating with the owner about paying separately for any furniture, known as chattels, as these will be exempt.

“Let’s say, for example, there are a few thousand pounds worth of appliances or furniture — if that can be reduced from the sale price, this might bring you down into a lower stamp duty bracket or simply mean the levy isn’t due,” says David Hannah, Group Chairman of Cornerstone Tax.

Make sure get a reputable valuation which you can present to HMRC if required.

You might think £300,000 won’t get you far in London where the average price in even the cheapest borough, Barking and Dagenham, is now £324,000. But research by Hamptons found that 13 per cent of London property is priced under this amount, rising to 19 per cent in Zone 5.

Journalist Thea de Gallier, 32, bought a small one-bedroom flat in South Norwood in summer 2021 for £210,000. “When I started flat hunting in 2019, there were literally hundreds of flats in certain areas of south-east London between the £200,000 and £220,000 price point.”

De Gallier planned to buy below the £300,000 threshold and saved up a 10 per cent deposit. “I was on a very strict budget,” she says. “I didn’t want to use a buying scheme because they invariably cost double what an older flat in a conversion would cost.”

Opt for a new-build

Another way to avoid stamp duty is by getting someone else to pay it. Many developers are now offering to pay stamp duty as house prices skyrocket. Barratt London is offering this incentive on a plot at New Market Place in East Ham.

The plot, which will have a two-bedroom apartment on it, is £459,000 and would usually incur a stamp duty of £7,950 for a first-time buyer and £12,950 for others.

“We try to offer it whenever we can, because it really is a deciding factor for many of our buyers,” says Rachel Pepper, head of sales at Dandara Northern Home Counties.

Consider a mobile home

Stamp duty doesn’t apply to mobile homes, caravans and, in London, houseboats. There are several thousand houseboats on the Thames and, while you can buy one for as little as £125,000, some come with luxury fittings, such as jet ski platforms and saunas… and a price tag of £2,500,000.

“People who buy houseboats enjoy being much more in touch with their natural environment,” says Madelaine Cooper of Unique Property Company, which sells houseboats. “Exemption is seen as a bonus by [houseboat] buyers rather than a primary reason.”

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