Government advice has been thin but consistent. If you have contracted to move then you can continue but it would be much better if you agreed with the buyer or seller to postpone the completion until after the lockdown. If you haven’t then it would be better to wait.
In response to demands from those who wanted clarity the Government has updated their advice. It’s now clearer that the process of buying and selling has been frozen. Most people will be frustrated but some will genuinely suffer. Many removal companies have pulled booked moves leaving a lot of people who have exchanged contracts with huge practical issues to complete. I thought that a summary of the latest advice for buyers and sellers, estate agents and conveyancers and for removal firms might be helpful;
Buying and Selling Homes during this stay-at-home period
Has the government stopped all property transactions?
No. In line with wider guidance, the government has urged everyone involved in a property sale to work within and adapt to new restrictions around social distancing and self-isolation.
If a transaction is underway do I need to cancel it?
No. The government has said there is no need to pull out of transactions. Instead, anyone in this situation is encouraged to defer the completion date until after stay-at-home measures are lifted although there is an exemption for “critical home moves”. Where a property is vacant then subject to social distancing, this can also be completed.
Are exchanges still possible?
Yes but the government recommends that where all parties wish to exchange, this should be either delayed until after stay-at-home measures are lifted or proceed if clauses are included to manage the risks presented by Coronavirus e.g. delayed completions.
And what if no delay can be agreed?
The government has said that if moving is unavoidable, people can proceed but must follow social distancing guidelines.
What about mortgage offers? Will they still be valid?
The government has agreed with banks that mortgage offers should be extended for up to three months where completions are delayed and is working with conveyances to establish a legal process for moving completion dates.
What if I am moving into an empty property?
You can continue with the transaction while following guidance on home removals. The government has also told surveyors that it may be possible for them to carry out urgent surveys on empty properties or where the occupants are out.
What is the guidance on removals?
Removers should honour their existing commitments where it is clear the move can be made in line with public health guidelines around social distancing and self-isolation.
If I want to put a property on the market, what can I do now?
You can prepare your property for the market. However, physical inspections or viewings should not take place or visits from photographers or surveyors.
What about virtual viewings?
There are no restrictions on marketing properties. This includes virtual viewings from the occupant or if there is a professional virtual tour already available. However, new professional virtual tours should not be undertaken.
What if this leads to an offer?
There are no restrictions on accepting offers although the government warns the process is likely to take longer than normal. Estate agents can continue to progress sales within social distancing restrictions.
Can an estate agent visit an office or property?
No. Agents should not open branches to the public or visit people’s homes. Business should be conducted, working from home. An exception is permitted to collect keys to facilitate necessary works or a move-in or completion, subject to, being well and adhering to social distancing guidelines
For any questions you feel have been unanswered, or to simply discuss what your next steps may be, please ask.