Whether you like it or not, the countdown to Christmas has begun. And with less than 100 days to go, homeowners and prospective buyers considering a move before the big day will be feeling the pressure.
The weeks leading up to Christmas are crucial for those navigating the homebuying process and in these uncertain times, the government has advised everyone to remain flexible, with no guarantee that buyers will be in their new homes by 22 December, the last day for completions.
To help the process move forward as seamlessly as possible during this pivotal time, the conveyancing experts at JMP Solicitors have compiled a list of tips for those aiming to be moved by the Christmas period.
1. Get the property ready for marketing
Once the decision has been made to move to a new house before Christmas, it’s a good idea to smarten up your home before putting your property on the market. Declutter the property and redecorate if necessary, a coat of paint can work wonders, as can giving the house a deep clean, emptying the loft and turning the storage/junk room into a useable space. Your property will then be more appealing to a prospective buyer, especially with a realistic price tag – always check the market.
2. Book surveyors as soon as possible
Once you have found a property you would like to buy, it’s worth ensuring that you get a decent survey before you commit to any purchase - if the boiler does not work and you’ve already moved in, prepare for an expensive replacement, especially around Christmas time. There are currently no restrictions on the types of surveys that can be carried out, but tradespeople must liaise with owners of the property to ensure an appropriate clean has been undertaken before entering the property and must keep to government safety working guidelines whilst in the property.
3. Be patient and prepared
Timescales can often shift depending on how long a chain is, and with changing government advice, there is a possibility for delays at this time. Further unexpected delays could also incur If someone involved in the transaction tests positive for COVID-19 during the moving process or has to self-isolate.
Ensure when viewing a property that you communicate your wishes to move before Christmas to an estate agent and solicitor. Your conveyancer and agent will then keep you updated with any changes that may cause delays when moving home.
4. Prepare for a different way of viewing
Current government guidelines state that initial viewings should be done virtually where possible, so be prepared for this when you are looking for a new home. If you are selling your current property, it is likely that you will need to market it virtually – your agent will be able to assist with this and will have the necessary equipment to photograph and video your home for sale. The current government advice also states that those selling their home should vacate the property if possible, so try and find somewhere to go while viewings are taking place.
5. Consider your packing arrangements
If you are opting for DIY packing, it is best to start at least three weeks before your moving date to box up items that you aren’t currently using. This will make the whole process less stressful and will also help with the de-cluttering of items that you never use or don't need, which can go to charity. Writing the contents and room on each box will help organise your packing and make unpacking easier. Where possible you should try and do the packing yourself to reduce the amount of contact between items.
If you are using a removals company, try and book as early as possible to ensure the company is operating at the time you require. Many removals companies have had to change policies and processes in line with government guidelines, so ensure you prepare in advance to make the packing as safe for everyone as possible.
6. Don’t forget to tie up loose ends
Be sure to inform utility companies that you are moving and have all mail forwarded to your new address once you have exchanged contracts. Write your Christmas cards in plenty of time and post with your new address pre-printed inside, this saves time and money on separate letters and messages.
7. Look after your pets
Both pets and young children can find moving home very stressful. Whilst animals can be kept safe and secure in a separate room to the unpacking, it is best to see if family or friends can look after children for the day so that they do not get anxious about the moving process and leaving their old home, this way they won’t feel unsettled and can just enjoy the excitement of arriving at their new home.
Jacqui Harley, head of residential conveyancing at JMP Solicitors, said:
“Following the housing market pause earlier this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are now seeing a huge increase in enquiries and the market is booming. Because of the increase in activity and changes to usual proceedings due to government safety guidelines, the process of moving house could now take longer than usual.
“Be prepared for a different process of buying and selling. It’s also important that if you or a member of the household are vulnerable, this needs to be communicated early in the process, so the necessary safety measures can be implemented and timescales can be accurately predicted.
“Although there are changes to the moving process, it’s still certainly achievable to move before Christmas if you act swiftly. We’ve outlined some things to consider if you are looking to move before this date.”