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As lockdown begins to ease – what does this mean for buying and selling houses?
31 Mar 2020

UPDATE: On 4 January 2021 the Prime Minister announced that England will adopt a national lockdown. However, you are still allowed to move home. Estate and letting agents remain open and removals firms can continue to work. 

 

As of May 13, the door has opened to house-buying again. The Government has announced that estate agents can re-open and other property professionals may also restart work, including house surveyors and removal companies. So what does this mean for those in the midst of buying and selling their property?

 

Adam Opperman, Senior Associate in the firms Residential Property team, aims to tackle some of the most commonly asked questions.

He says: “Whilst buying and selling property was never officially suspended during the lockdown, the restrictions on movement were having a huge impact. The Government has now asked that the public and all parties involved should remain as flexible as possible during this time. As a team, we are working hard to ensure our clients’ property transactions can now take place.”

 

Can I put my house on the market?

You can now put your house on the market and start to look for properties you might wish to move to. The majority of searches for property should take place online and you’re advised to only physically view the ones you’re most likely to wish to move to. Estate agents are now able to visit your home in order to take photos / videos of your property whilst adhering to social distancing measures. 

Can I instruct a solicitor?

Absolutely. Conveyancers are open for business and can take on new instructions. Most of the work can happen remotely, however, if a client meeting needs to take place, appropriate social distancing and hygiene measures must be enforced.

Can I view a property?

Guidance for England says physically distanced viewings that comply with public health advice are allowed. However viewings can only take place with serious buyers who are genuinely interested in the property and initial viewings should be done online as virtual viewings where possible.

Can I make an offer on a property?

Yes, you are free to make or accept an offer on a property as normal. But there may be a delay if someone is showing symptoms of the coronavirus, or self-isolating. The legal process can continue, and your legal advisor can help make sure contracts or agreements are as flexible as possible.

We've exchanged, can we now complete?

Yes. Once the contracts are signed and exchanged you’ve entered into the legal agreement. All parties are encouraged to remain flexible during this period and be prepared for delays, for example if someone becomes ill with the virus. It’s advisable to make sure our legal representative provides explicit provisions for the risks presented by the virus and have a contract that stipulates sufficient flexibility to allow a purchase to be delayed in this event.

The house we’re buying is unoccupied. Can we move in?

You can continue with the transaction and move in but you must adhere to all the guidelines on social distancing when collecting keys, moving furniture and other associated activities. Removal firms are now able to operate, but guidance has been issued by the Government to ensure moves happen as safely as possible.

If we delay a move, will my mortgage offer remain in place?

UK Finance has confirmed that mortgage lenders will give a three-month extension to mortgage offers for any home movers impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. Read more.