REMOVALS firms are experiencing a surge in business as homeowners rush to beat a hike in property tax from April.

One Edinburgh firm said business was up "at least 50 per cent" compared to last year with other firms noting a definite boost in demand in what is traditionally one of the sector's busiest times of year.

Land and Buildings Transactions Tax (LBTT) will replace stamp duty in Scotland from April 1, when homeowners buying or selling properties worth more than £325,000 will see the levy double north of the Border.

David Mills, who has been general manager at one of Edinburgh's oldest removals firms, Bishop's Move, for 16 years, said the firm had seen a huge spike in trade this March.

"Business is up at least 50 per cent - at least," said Mr Mills. "But it's interesting that it's not been evenly spread out - it's concentrated in the last 10 days of the month.

"We noticed a pattern emerging - the week commencing the 23rd was just going crazy and we couldn't understand why at first.

"Then when we were talking to customers we realised it was all about stamp duty.

"Traditionally, if someone was moving at the end of March and we were very busy I might try to persuade them to reschedule for a few days later, but of course everyone was point blank refusing to budge.

"I've had some people tell me that if they move one day as opposed to the next it will cost them £10-12,000 more.

"From April, business is back to normal or just above normal because there's a more upbeat level of confidence in the market generally."

Mr Mills added that while they operate all over Scotland, they were seeing particularly high activity in the capital and the north-east where properties fetch the highest sums.

From April 1, house buyers in Scotland will be charged 10 per cent duty on properties worth £325,001 to £750,000, compared to 5 per cent currently.

Under LBTT, properties worth more than £750,000 will carry a 12 per cent duty - currently reserved to homes selling at more than £1.5m. At the moment, properties changing hands for between £750,000-925,000 cost buyers 5 per cent in stamp duty, while those sold for between £925,001 to £1.5 are charged at 10 per cent.

Movers at the lower end of the market will benefit though, with the starting 2 per cent rung for LBTT moving up to properties worth £145,001 instead of £125,001 now.

Alec Cruickshank, director of Edinburgh-based AMC Removals, said trade was up around 11 per cent this month compared to last March.

He added: "We have noticed people are trying to sell bigger properties as quickly as possible to get the sale done and dusted before the changes come in on April 1. They're extremely keen to sell so that they are not stung by the hike.

"We are extremely busy the week before and the week after the change in stamp duty, but there's a clear distinction - properties worth upwards of £375,000 are dominating the end of March, with lower value properties after."

Peter Betts, managing director of Glasgow-based Home Removals, said this March was "definitely busier than previous years" after disappointing trade in February.