With the vast majority of the country on lockdown due to the escalating crisis, a lot of us are feeling worried. This includes all the people who have recently bought or sold property and are waiting to move into their new home.
To help buyers and sellers at this time of uncertainty, price comparison site for home movers, reallymoving, has compiled some practical tips and advice about what to expect for people at all stages of the home move process, including information from its UK-wide panel of conveyancers, surveyors and removals firms.
Preparing to Sell
You're probably now facing a period of time at home which you weren't expecting. Hardware stores are currently on the Government's list of retail outlets that are permitted to remain open, so if you're planning to put your home on the market when the lockdown is over, use this time to tackle all those DIY jobs you've been putting off, such as decorating and gardening to make sure your property is looking pristine.
Declutter the loft, garage and outbuildings; clean and box up everything you want to take with you. You will need to store the items you no longer need until charity shops and recycling centres reopen.
Create a spreadsheet of all the suppliers you need to notify regarding a change of address and prepare letters or emails to be sent at the appropriate time.
Do as much online research as possible, so you have a clear path forward for when the lockdown is over. Check out the local market and review sold property prices. Read the Ofsted reports of schools, check transport links and Google Streetview local facilities such as high streets, parks and gardens.
Don't wait to begin conversations with agents. Talk to them on the phone now to let them know what you're looking for. From similar conversations with sellers, agents may have a pretty good idea of what properties are going to hit the market when lockdown is over.
If you find a property you're interested in online, speak to the agent to check if 360° virtual viewings are available. Many estate agents have adapted rapidly to video viewings in the last few weeks, enabling buyers to undertake virtual walk-throughs of every room.
Carry out video consultations with agents through WhatsApp, Skype and Facetime.
Securing a Mortgage
It's more important than ever to ensure your financial affairs are in order and that you secure a mortgage offer in principle before you begin house hunting. Be aware there could be delays to new loan applications as lenders focus on delivering payment holidays for existing borrowers.
Be prepared to provide evidence of job security, something banks will be checking even more closely than usual.
With surveyors currently unable to carry out valuation surveys, expect your application to be delayed.
If you already have a mortgage offer in place, speak to your lender to check that the offer is still valid and that the level of borrowing you're taking on remains manageable if your job situation has changed.
If you have not yet exchanged, hold off for now. Spend this period of time ensuring that all queries have been answered and as much of the process has been completed as possible, so you're ready to press the button and exchange as soon as the lockdown is lifted.
If you have already exchanged and are due to complete within the next three weeks, speak to your solicitor as soon as possible to try and agree on a new completion date beyond the lockdown period with all other parties.
If you have already exchanged with a completion date beyond the next three weeks, monitor the situation closely. Ask your solicitor to begin conversations with other parties - you may need to act quickly to agree on a new date if the lockdown period is extended.
Money laundering checks, which require buyers to provide certified copies of proof of identity and proof of address documents, can currently still be carried out at the Post Office.
There will be delays to searches as Local Authority offices go into lockdown and cannot physically carry them out. If searches on your purchase have not yet been completed, you may have to wait until lockdown restrictions are lifted.
Harvey Harding, Group Managing Director of PM Property Lawyers, said: “Subject to all parties being clear and committed, including solicitors, conveyancers, banks, removal companies and estate agents, we will assist in facilitating moves where possible - but subject to our stringent conditions. We have great technology and can work from home as if it were the office, but there are concerns around the physical parts of the process, the house being disinfected, removal men distancing, estate agents handing over keys and so on. I would therefore personally say, a delay may be better for all.”
Arranging a Survey
It will no longer be possible for a surveyor to carry out a survey on a property as this is considered non-essential activity. Buyers will need to wait for restrictions on movement to be lifted.
The British Association of Removers has issued guidance to its members to postpone all moves during the lockdown period, except those which are already underway.
Today on BBC Breakfast, Michal Gove MP, who is leading the Government's response to the crisis, indicated that there will be specific cases where people will continue to move home. The Government has not yet issued a clarification on this point.
While the vast majority of removals will now be delayed, movers can still get quotes and choose a removal firm in advance of their move.
Surveys can be carried out over Facetime in order to provide removals quotes, which will take a little longer than an in-person visit. However, these may result in missing items, so be sure to double-check the quote to make sure everything is included.
Rob Houghton, CEO of reallymoving, said: “The enforcement of a UK-wide lockdown will leave thousands of home movers across the country with no choice but to put their plans on hold temporarily and we could see some chains collapsing under the weight of uncertainty.
“For those who haven't yet exchanged contracts, it would be wise to hold off until the lockdown period is over, to avoid a situation where you are legally committed to completing but physically unable to move due to lockdown restrictions.
“If you have already exchanged and are waiting to complete, speak to your solicitor as soon as possible to try and agree a new completion date with all other parties. Our strong advice is to keep the lines of communication open between all parties and show as much goodwill as possible.
“Those who now unexpectedly find themselves at home with time on their hands should use it wisely to get all their affairs in order. Do as much online research as possible, prepare your home and garden for sale and ensure you're in the best position to move forward when the crisis subsides.”