Last month saw the number of buy-to-let valuations carried out ridse by 34% compared to February last year, as people rush to complete before the implementation of George Osborne’s Stamp Duty surcharge.
Remortgaging activity – which includes buy-to-let remortgaging activity – jumped 41% over the same period.
In addition, buy-to-let activity saw a month-on-month increase of 25%, while remortgaging volumes climbed 6% in February compared to the previous month, largely driven by buy-to-let remortgaging.
The news comes as a 3% Stamp Duty surcharge on second homes or buy-to-let properties is due to to take effect on transactions completed after 1 April 2016.
John Bagshaw, corporate services director of Connells Survey & Valuation, said: “Buy-to-let investors and those remortgaging with the aim of buying a second home are racing against the clock. Activity from both these groups is picking up pace on a monthly basis as the 1st April Stamp Duty deadline looms and people hurry to complete their transactions before being hit by the 3% surcharge on their buy-to-let property or second home.
“Expect this activity to reach a crescendo in March before calming in the second quarter of the year. Buy-to-let investors will be calculating the impact the Stamp Duty hike is having on their rental yields, while those thinking of remortgaging to fund a second home will weigh up whether it’s still financially viable for them to do so.
“But behind these somewhat frantic figures there is an underlying story of steady, long-term growth. Despite taking some political heat recently, the buy-to-let market continues to attract investment off the back of its potential returns, while the remortgaging sector remains popular with those looking to get a better mortgage or release capital on their home for investment purposes.”
In addition, the home mover and first-time buyer sectors have experienced strong monthly rises in valuation activity. The number of valuations carried out for first time buyers surged by 36% between January and February 2016, while those carried out for home movers grew by 35% over the same period.
Activity for both these sectors was steadier on an annual basis. Those taking their first step onto the property ladder in February reported a 9% increase compared to January and home movers experienced an 8% uptick on the same month-on-month basis.
Bagshaw said: “The festive slowdown appears to be a distant memory for those moving onto or up the housing ladder. While first-time buyers and home movers were relatively slow out of the starting blocks in January, they are certainly making up for lost time now.
“Home movers are confident the strong but steady property price rises which typified 2015 are set to continue, and so feel confident that their home’s value will hold them in good stead as they endeavor to move up the ladder. Meanwhile, first-time buyers, whose personal finances tend to be particularly precarious, have become more conscious the economic good news of last year was not just a blip on the radar, but the start of a longer-term trend. This has given many of them the confidence to put down their first deposit and apply for their first mortgage.”
Overall valuation activity also performed strongly. The total number of valuations carried out in February represented a 21% increase on the same month last year. Meanwhile, on a monthly basis, valuation volumes as a whole rose by 20%.
Bagshaw said: “The housing market is getting into its stride as we move further into 2016. A number of factors have precipitated this. Monetary policy continues to, indirectly, stimulate property activity, as the Bank of England signals that the base rate will be held at record-low levels for the foreseeable future, thus keeping the average mortgage rate down.
“The economics are also favourable for home buyers. High returns on buy-to-let property is encouraging investors to expand their portfolios quickly – especially given they are faced with a looming Stamp Duty Hike that could adversely affect their profit margins. Meanwhile, the generally positive economic climate keeps tempting the non-investor to move sooner rather than later. Even first-time buyers, who may baulk at the price of property, are being lured to the market by government stimulus schemes such as Help to Buy. Many in the property market will be hoping such fair conditions last.”