After 7 weeks of restrictions, it was announced yesterday, that from Wednesday 13th May house moves can resume if the ‘step by step guidance’ outlined by the Housing Secretary is followed. The public have been told that moving home will be allowed again, as will visiting estate agents and letting agents. It will also be possible to visit show homes and view houses on the market to let or buy. Buyers who have purchased a new home will be able to visit it to prepare it for moving in.
It has been estimated that the house sales held up were over £80billion, this is a clear attempt to get the housing market moving again. It is obviously a step in the right direction for those desperate to move but early days. We will need to see how the estate agent’s approach viewings and how they adhere to social distancing requirements whilst carrying out viewings. There is a suggestion that online viewings maybe possible. In order to make sufficient progress mortgage companies will also need to be able to carry out valuations again subject to social distancing rules to allow further sales and purchases.
Those wishing to move must still bear in mind that there is no guarantee the property they are moving into is free from infection. Additionally, if someone in the chain has to self-isolate then the move cannot happen and will be delayed. Further complicating factors include the effect of furlough on mortgage offers. Prior to this change buyers could only move into vacant properties as they would not be at risk of infection. There has been no medical advancement to change this fact.
If clients no longer wish to proceed due to the ongoing pandemic they can do so as long as they have not exchanged contracts. They are not legally committed to the purchase until exchange. If contracts have exchanged then the client is legally bound to buy even if they have concerns about infection. If they did not proceed they could risk losing their deposit. Our residential conveyancing solicitors are looking to reduce this risk by not committing clients to exchange of contracts in advance of the completion date and ensuring risks are fully explained to the clients when agreeing dates. One option clients have taken is to complete the purchase but not immediately move in to ensure the property is infection free. Of course this is not always possible where there is a chain involved and all we can do is advise clients to take all the usual precautions and ensure the property is fully cleaned before occupation.
Buyers may also wish to renegotiate the price of their property if they belive the value has dropped. A number of clients have indicated it is their intention to renegotiate but as yet we have had no feedback as to whether such negotiations have been successful or to what extent property values have been affected.
Therefore, in order for a move to take place those moving must assess the risks and if they decide to proceed ensure they follow the social distancing guidance from visiting estate agents through to removal and moving in. However, buyers may need to be aware that there may be added complications in the chain and difficulties with mortgage offers.