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Buying and selling a property during the coronavirus pandemic

View profile for Natalie Bradley
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House prices set for steady growth according to forecasters

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been keenly felt in the UK’s housing market over the past few weeks and looks likely to slow down the speed with which people can buy and sell their homes. Government guidance issued on 26 March urges those involved in moving home to “adapt and be flexible”.

So what does this mean in practice if you are in the process of buying or selling your home?

Should I pull out of my sale?

Government guidance on this is very clear, no. There is no need for you to pull out of a transaction. While the conveyancing process may take longer than anticipated, given the situation we all face, your house sale and/or purchase will still go through.

Remember, once you have exchanged contracts, you have entered a legal obligation to purchase that property. Failure to proceed will mean you will be in breach of that contract. The implications of this can range from payment of interest under the contract for a late completion, or potentially the loss of the 10% deposit (for buyers), and other reasonable costs which might flow from the breach of contract. 

What if I’m due to move home in the next few weeks?

If you’re moving into a house that is currently occupied, the government has advised that all parties should do everything they can to show flexibility and amicably agree an alternative date to move. This should be at a time when stay-at-home and social distancing measures are likely to have passed.

If you’re moving into a property which is currently vacant then there should be no reason why you cannot move other than following the social distancing measures outlined by the government and the NHS. This should be kept front of mind if you need to hire a removal company for instance. We recommend liaising with your removal company well in advance to understand what measures they have in place ahead of your move and agree what steps need to be taken in relation to your property.

If the property is vacant are there any other delays I might expect at the moment?

Many solicitors, banks, lenders and removal companies have introduced measures to keep business moving as normal as possible during this period. Of course, there could well be some delays, for example lenders may not release mortgage funds as quick as usual, other parties’ solicitors may not be fully operational and removal firms may be short staffed.

I have just put my property on the market, what should I do?

While you can keep advertising the property through your estate agent or privately, the advice at the moment is not to allow anyone into the property for viewings. You should be able to allow people to view the property once social distancing restrictions have been relaxed.

If you need to instruct a solicitor to assist in your house sale or purchase, contact Stephensons on 0161 696 6229.