Can I Still Move Home During the Covid-19 Outbreak

Last week the government issued guidance to buyers, sellers, estate agents, solicitors, surveyors and new property developers regarding moving home whilst the UK is in lockdown to fight the coronavirus pandemic. We aim to answer any questions you may have in this regard within this blog.

Will my transaction proceed?

Whilst there is no need to immediately pull out of transactions, we all must ensure we are following guidance to stay at home and away from others at all times, including the specific measures for those who are presenting symptoms, self-isolating or shielding. Prioritising the health of individuals and the public must be the priority.

If you are moving into a vacant property, or if indeed you are purchasing a buy to let property which is vacant or already has tenants in situ, then you can continue with that transaction as planned. In these circumstances we, at Lanyon Bowdler, recommend a simultaneous (same day) exchange and completion. If you are moving into a vacant property you must ensure that when carrying out removals yourself, you comply with the social distancing guidance during the moving process.

Where the property is currently occupied and no exchange has taken place, we encourage parties to delay exchange until such time as the stay-at-home measures against coronavirus (COVID-19) will no longer be in place to minimise the risks.

If exchange has already taken place and you are contractually bound to complete, we encourage all parties within the chain to do all they can to amicably agree an alternative date to move, for a time in the future when it is likely that stay-at-home measures against coronavirus (COVID-19) will no longer be in place. This may be a fixed date in the future, or it may be more appropriate for an on notice completion, with a longstop and/or Covid-19 special condition provision. This can be done by a variation of the contract but it is important that a new contract is not entered into.

Will my mortgage offer be valid?

It is important to remember when agreeing a new completion date that you ensure your mortgage offer will remain valid at the point of the revised completion date. Last week UK Finance confirmed, that in order to support customers who have already exchanged contracts for property purchases with set dates for completion, all mortgage lenders are working to find ways to enable an extension of their mortgage offer for up to three months.

We recommend you check with your lender as to whether this is automatic or whether you will be required to apply for such an extension.

It is also worth considering that should your financial circumstances change between exchange and completion i.e. you lose your job, your lender would be entitled to withdraw the mortgage offer. Finally, you should also be aware that property prices could fluctuate during Covid-19 and again this may affect your mortgage offer. UK Finance have confirmed banks will work with their customers should this happen.

Follow the guidance

If moving is unavoidable for contractual reasons and the parties are unable to reach an agreement to delay, people must follow advice on staying away from others to minimise the spread of the virus. In line with government’s guidelines, anyone with symptoms, self-isolating or shielding from the virus, should follow medical advice which will mean not moving house for the time being, if at all possible.

In the new emergency enforcement powers given to the police, which came into force last week, there is an exemption for critical home moves, in the event that a new date is unable to be agreed.

If you are looking to put your property on the market for sale this may be more challenging than usual during this period. There should be no visitors to your home.

You can speak to estate agents over the phone and they will be able to give you general advice about the local property market and handle certain matters remotely, but they will not be able to start actively marketing your home in the usual manner.

If you are thinking about selling, you can use this time to start gathering together all of the information you will need to provide to potential purchasers, and indeed we at Lanyon Bowdler are accepting instructions from clients in this regard.

If your property is already on the market, you can continue to advertise it as being for sale but you should not allow people in to view your property. We are aware that some estate agents have arranged for sellers to carry out viewings with prospective buyers by video apps. We do not recommend, however, that you exchange until such time as the stay-at-home restrictions have been lifted so that you can view the property in person.

If you have any questions or if you would like to instruct us to act on your behalf please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.