CORONAVIRUS: HOUSING MARKET OPEN FOR BUSINESS

CORONAVIRUS: HOUSING MARKET OPEN FOR BUSINESS

In welcome news for the housing industry and prospective buyers and sellers the Government have confirmed the housing market can re-commence and have today published updated guidance.

Background

Since lockdown was announced the housing market almost ceased overnight (with a few exceptions) as viewings could not take place, surveyors could not visit properties resulting in new mortgage lending being severely restricted and property completions could not safely take place without risk to both public health and breaching government regulations.

This was crippling the housing market.

What has changed?

The key message is that people who wish to move home can now do so provided social distancing measures and other Government advice is followed.

Estate agents, developers, surveyors and conveyancers can resume their operations.  Property viewings can now take place enabling prospective buyers to make decisions on properties they may wish to purchase. Crucially, surveyors can also now carry out valuation/surveys which will result in mortgage lenders being able to grant new mortgages.

What precautions should you take if you are viewing a property?

A simplified version of the Government advice is:

  • Initial viewings should be done virtually wherever possible with physical viewings only where a buyer is seriously considering making an offer
  • Viewings should be by appointment only
  • If a viewing is taking place all internal doors should be opened and handwashing facilities made available 
  • Sellers should vacate the property whilst viewings are taking place to minimise contact
  • Agents should accompany prospective buyer’s but follow social distancing rules
  • After the viewing the homeowner should ensure surfaces are cleaned

How do I move on the day of completion?

One of the biggest challenges moving house right now is exercising social distancing on the actual day of completion and the following measures should be put in place:

  • Contact removal firms as early as possible
  • Try to do as much of the packing yourself
  • Where possible clean your belongs before they are handled by others
  • Maintain social distancing and ensure doors are open to minimise contact with your removals company
  • Wash your hands often and avoid touching surfaces where possible

Aside from the practical issues are there legal issues to consider?

There are still legal implications to consider and which you should speak to your conveyancer about.  For example, dependant on individual circumstances, it may be wise to have a clause added to your contract for sale/purchase enabling the transaction to be delayed or even cancelled should something relating to Coronavirus make it impossible for a move to take place (e.g. should a party to the transaction develop symptoms).  This is particularly important for occupied properties.

Conclusion

Whilst the news for all of us who work in the industry is very welcome it is clear there still needs to be caution undertaken in how the housing market resumes and the appropriate safety measures put in place (both from a health and legal point of view) and buyers and sellers should take advice from the appropriate professional accordingly.   Extra caution needs to be taken with occupied properties and whilst there are still similar challenges for the new build housing market it is clear with a vacant property and no chain the practicalities of these transactions will naturally be less challenging.

A link to the Government’s full advice can be found at the following link:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/government-advice-on-home-moving-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak

Prince Evans Solicitors LLP remain open for business and would welcome the opportunity to help you with your property sale and/or purchase or any questions you may have.

Please contact our specialist teams if you require assistance as follows:

For new build or shared ownership property nbh@prince-evans.co.uk

For residential conveyancing resi@prince-evans.co.uk

Or call us on 020 8567 3477

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