Practical considerations for those buying, selling and moving home
On 23 March the country was put into lockdown in an unprecedented step to limit the spread of Coronavirus. On 30 March Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Jenny Harries, said that the measures could last up to six months.
Buyers and sellers that have recently made/accepted offers however might now be wondering: Can I still move and, if so, when?
The Government has released guidance on the process for moving home and the full advice can be found here.
As many of us are currently working from home, there is no need for the sale process to stop. Buyers and sellers can still communicate with their solicitors to provide contract packs, raise requisitions and provide replies to enquiries, meaning there is no reason for the process to grind to a halt.
here are some of the issues we need to overcome in the current climate:
As part of the buying process information about the property is required from the Local Authority. This is still available from many Local Authorities; albeit the turnaround time might be slightly longer than usual. If search results are not currently available (as is the case with some Local Authorities) and an quick turnaround is required, there are solutions. In particular Indemnity Insurance is available and is acceptable to most mainstream lenders, meaning the absence of Local Authority searches does not have to delay the sale process.
Lenders are still open for business and, with the Bank of England Base Rate being reduced to 0.1%, low rates are available. Depending upon the level of borrowing required, desktop valuations can be undertaken. With a good mortgage broker, an offer can usually take two weeks to be issued from submission of the application (which can now be lodged online). It would be prudent for buyers to lay the foundations and discuss the mortgage application before offering on a property, so that brokers have the information and documentation lenders require, well in time. New appointments can be made via WhatsApp, FaceTime, Zoom and Skype.
These are still possible. The advice given by the Royal Institute for Chartered Surveyors is: “Surveyors should not expect to carry out non-urgent surveys in homes where people are in residence, and no inspections should take place if any person in the property is showing symptoms, self-isolating or being shielded… It may be possible to carry out some of your work online and also carry out urgent surveys on empty properties, or those where the occupants are out of the property or following guidance to stay at home and away from others” (our emphasis).
In view of the above, transactions can still get to the point of exchange of contracts, which is when the moving date is fixed (the “completion date”). At this point, both the seller and buyer are contractually bound. What happens if then, heaven forbid, there are further complications? (e.g. there are further lockdown measures or one of the parties is required to self-isolate). We at HBB recommend including provisions within the contract enabling completion to be delayed, giving the parties time and space to comply with Government guidelines whilst allowing the sale to go ahead, in the interests of all of the parties.
From the point of making and agreeing an offer, it typically takes 8 – 12 weeks to move house. If you keep in touch with your solicitor, and they work to to push the transaction along, your dream move can still go ahead and need not be significantly delayed.
Spencer is a Senior Solicitor at HBB.
Please contact 0208 301 0808 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss any property related matters with Spencer.