Q My wife and I live in a house my wife bought several years ago before we were married. I have never owned a property. If I were to secure a mortgage solely in my name to buy a new property would I get any stamp duty reduction for being a first-time buyer? The plan would be to sell the house we are currently living in as soon as we’ve moved in to a new property.
A Contrary to what some solicitors and conveyancers have told other readers asking similar questions to yours, being married does not stop you from being defined as a first-time buyer and so qualifying for stamp duty land tax (SDLT) relief. Provided your spouse doesn’t already own property and you are buying in your name only, you can get relief on the first £300,000 of the purchase price of a property costing up to £500,000 (there’s no relief if it’s more than that).
However, being married to someone who does already own property (which he or she is not planning to sell) means that you can’t claim first-time buyer relief. That’s because, according to John Shallcross, an experienced property solicitor and expert in SDLT at law firm, Blake Morgan, “the availability of first-time buyers’ relief would be overridden by the rules for higher-rate SDLT”. Because the SDLT rules treat a married couple as a single entity, you buying a property – even in your own name – would mean that as a married couple, you would end up owning two properties and so be liable for higher-rate SDLT on the purchase of the second. However, provided you sold your wife’s house within three years of moving into yours, you’d be able to claim back the higher-rate surcharge.
So your plan to buy your property and then sell your wife’s would totally scupper your chances of being able to claim first-time buyer’s relief and also land you with a bill for the higher rate of SDLT. You can get round this – as so be eligible for first-time buyer relief – by making sure that your wife’s property is sold before, or on the day, that you complete the purchase of your property.