Rishi Sunak is considering extending the stamp duty holiday until the end of June to boost the housing market, it has been reported.

Last July the Chancellor exempted most buyers from the levy if they completed sales before March31st, 2021 - saving them up to £15,000.

Now he is preparing to use next week's Budget to extend the holiday by another three months, The Times said.

The policy covers the sale of property worth up to £500,000 and would cost around £1 billion to implement. It comes amid concerns that not extending the holiday would create a cliff edge, jeopardising hundreds of thousands of sales.

Average house prices soared by 8.5% last year to hit an all time record of £252,000, figures show. it is the highest annual growth since October 2014, according to the Office for National Statistics.

UK property values went up by £20,000 in the year to December. All regions showed an increase but the biggest hike came in the North West, where average prices rose by 11.2 per cent to £184,000. London saw the smallest increase at 3.5 per cent and is still the most expensive part of the country with the average property worth £496,000.

Detached properties saw gains of 10 per cent as buyers searched for bigger properties in lockdown. But the value of flats and maisonettes also rose by 5 per cent.

Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, said: 'The housing market continued at full speed ahead as we approached the end of the year. With demand from buyers for more space - both inside and out - outstripping supply, prices inevitably edged upwards.' He added: 'Detached houses continue to be the property of choice, with growth of flats continuing to lag.'

The Chancellor is considering extending the stamp duty holiday for a short period according to a newspaper report.

The Daily Telegraph, quoting an unnamed government source, says Rishi Sunak may extend the March 31st deadline by six weeks to mid-May, to avoid tens of thousands of fall throughs and what it calls a "completion trap".

"It is certainly the case that a lot of people would be caught in the completion trap if the holiday were to end when it is due to" the source tells the Telegraph.

There is no mention of what would happen to buyers whose transactions are now underway but may not complete even by mid-May. Sunak has apparently dismissed calls for a longer, six month extension because of the damage that would do to tax receipts at a time when the government is seeking to recoup lost income.

Officially the government does not make fiscal announcements outside of major events such as the Budget, scheduled for March 3rd.

However, the Telegraph is closely aligned with government thinking and has given advance information on new policies in the recent past. The paper has also mounted a strident campaign in recent weeks in favour of an extension to the stamp duty holiday.

The government yesterday confirmed that another March 31st deadline - for buyers using the current Help to Buy equity loan scheme in England - would be extended.

Homes England, the government body presiding over the scheme, announced it would extend the deadline until May 31st for new build completion and purchase, to give buyers and house builders more time.

Front gardens are getting greener as plant-loving Britons break with the trend for paving and gravel, a survey found.

Twice as many people now say the area in front of their home is entirely planted up, compared with five years ago, according to a poll for the Royal Horticultural Society.

If replicated countrywide, almost 40 square miles of plants, trees and grass has been created since 2015.

The RHS say that front gardens can improve mental and physical health, help wildlife, conserve rain water, improve air quality and cool cities during summer. Front gardens also create kerb appeal for prospective buyers.

The Royal Horticultural Society said it hopes a surge in interest during the pandemic can help fill gardens with plants. Nearly half of people with gardens said they spent more time in it during the spring lockdown and more than a quarter bought more plants.

House prices last month fell for the first time since June as the market approaches the stamp duty cliff edge.

The average price of a property dropped by 0.3 per cent since December to £229, 748. This brought the annual growth rate down to 6.4 per cent from 7.3 per cent, according to Nationwide. 

The downturn will pile pressure on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to extend the stamp duty holiday, which ends on March 31st. It comes after MPs warned on Monday that property sales worth billions were at risk of collapse as the deals may not be completed in time.

But experts said the dip was merely 'a dab on the brakes' following a period of frenzied activity. Robert Gardner of Nationwide said families were still looking for more living space and this demand will support the market. But he added that if the stamp duty holiday ends as scheduled, the market could fall 'sharply' in the coming months.

Around 100,000 buyers are set to miss the stamp duty holiday deadline, warned Rightmove. And a quarter of them will not continue with their purchase, claimed mortgage lender Paragon.

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