Official Government Advice on Buying and Selling Property During the Coronavirus Outbreak

April 01, 2020  |   Posted by :   |   Blog

The Government, working with Public Health England, has provided new advice for anyone buying or selling residential property during the current Covid-19 crisis.

In accordance with the current stay-at-home guidelines, several aspects of the property industry have understandably had to adapt or been put on hold for the foreseeable future, but that doesn’t mean things have ground to a halt!

So long as all parties follow the appropriate safety measures and are prepared to be flexible, there is no need to pull out of existing transactions or give up on buying or selling property during this time, but in all cases, the health and safety of individuals should be prioritised. Follow the advice of your estate agent, solicitor, conveyancer, and other professionals involved in any transactions, and be sure to adhere to up-to-date Government advice regarding social distancing rules.

Advice for buyers:

Wherever possible, delay moving while stay-at-home measures are still in place.

If you’ve already exchanged contracts and the home you’re planning to move into is vacant, the transaction can continue as normal (though please follow the guidelines below on safe removals).

If the property you plan to move into is currently occupied, the Government guidelines suggest delaying the move to a future date when stay-at-home measures are no longer in place.

Anyone who is displaying symptoms, self-isolating, or shielding from the virus should follow current medical advice not to move house for the time being.

However, there is an exemption for critical home moves. If you are unable to agree on a future moving date, or if the move is preferable for the safety of the parties involved, you may be able to continue with the transaction while adhering to the safety guidelines.

UK Finance is in the process of securing agreements with banks that mortgage offers should be extended for up to 3 months in the case of delays. If your circumstances change during this time, lenders are being urged to work with customers to manage their finances as a matter of urgency.

Conveyancers are also working on developing a standard legal process to facilitate the moving of completion dates.

Advice for sellers:

Wherever possible, delay moving while stay-at-home measures are still in place, and do not carry out any viewings or accept visitors into your home.

You can continue to hold appointments with estate agents, solicitors and conveyancers over the phone or email.

You could also use this time to gather the necessary paperwork, admin, and carry out your own property searches.

You may continue to advertise your property but you are not allowed to invite visitors or prospective buyers into your home while social distancing guidelines are in place. You might like to speak to your estate agent about the possibility of virtual viewings, instead.

You may still accept offers on your property, but be prepared for the process to take longer than usual.

If the property you are selling is unoccupied, you can exchange contracts and proceed with the transaction. However, if you are currently living in the property for sale, you must wait until stay-at-home measures have been lifted. (See above for potential exemptions on this rule.)

General property advice:

Surveys: Any non-urgent surveys should be put on hold for the time being. No surveys or inspections are permitted in the property of anyone who is showing symptoms, self-isolating, or shielding from the virus. Exterior surveys, or inspections of empty properties may still be allowed, however.

Removals: If it is safe, and your moving date cannot be moved, removals can still go ahead so long as all parties follow current Government safety advice regarding social distancing, sanitation, and the protection of vulnerable individuals. At all possible, however, moves should be delayed until stay-at-home measures have passed.

Conveyancing: Conveyancers may still facilitate the sales of unoccupied properties and continue to support clients in resolving property issues and prepare for future transactions.

At Frances Lindsay & Co, we are working with new and existing property clients to do as much as we can to keep things moving along, so please do get in touch if you need specific advice, and get a free online conveyancing quote here.

Read the full Government advice here.


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