At the end of May, the Government updated their guidelines on moving home during the Coronavirus outbreak, taking into account the changes to lockdown rules, stating that people who wish to move home can now do so – providing they follow the safety guidelines.
This means that people are now able to view and inspect properties, conduct surveys, hire removal services and move home, so long as it is safe to do so. Some moves may be relatively low risk, for example if the property is already vacated, or if all parties can safely avoid contact with one another, while others may need special consideration or greater flexibility on dates to ensure everyone’s safety.
Priority and flexibility should be given to people who are vulnerable people involved in a chain to ensure the process is made as safe as possible.
There are obviously many safety considerations involved in all these activities, so we’ve summarised the guidelines below to help make sure you stay safe if you choose to proceed with your moving plans.
If you are proceeding with a house move, attending viewings, or any other activity that involves people from outside your household, ensure that you follow these general guidelines:
- Try to do as much of the process online as possible to maintain social distancing
- Be prepared to be flexible over dates, or delay the process if necessary
- Practice good hygiene during viewings and while moving- wash your hands frequently with soap (for at least 20 seconds)
- Stay at least 2 metres apart from people who are not members of your household
- If you or a member of your household has shown symptoms, follow the guidelines on self-isolation and do not proceed with moving plans until you are healthy
- Similarly, you should not expect to move into any home where people have coronavirus or are self-isolating
Viewings and house searches:
Although the new guidelines allow for viewings and searches, they still encourage that initial viewings are kept virtual, and as much as possible of the property search process remains online. However if you do attend a physical viewing, here’s what you need to know:
- Open viewings are not currently permitted – all viewings should be made by appointment and only attended by people from a single household (estate agents may also be present)
- Properties should ideally be vacated for viewings, and a two-metre distance should be kept between people from different households (eg: estate agents and buyers/sellers)
- During viewings, avoid touching surfaces, use hand sanitiser and wash your hands regularly. Properties should also be cleaned thoroughly before and after viewings.
- If you, or a member of your household has coronavirus symptoms or is self-isolating, you should not attend in-person viewings.
Preparing to buy or sell:
You are free to put your home on the market and start looking for properties – though for now it’s best to do as much of the process online or via phone/email if possible. Here are the general guidelines on buying and selling property:
- Estate agents are now able to visit in order to take photos or videos of a property, unless a member of the household is showing symptoms or self-isolating
- The majority of conveyancing and other preparation can be completed over the phone, by email, or video call (see our checklist for advice on what you need to do)
- If you’re looking at new build properties, you should still be able to visit show homes or plots, but these visits should be arranged by appointment and limited to one household at a time
- You can still make or accept an offer, or reserve a property, but be aware that there may be delays if someone within your chain develops symptoms or has to self-isolate – try to be as flexible and understanding as you can
Property searches, surveys, and conveyancing:
Many aspects of purchasing a home can be carried out at a distance, but there are some exceptions, such as surveys and inspections. Here’s an overview of what’s possible under the current guidelines:
- Solicitors and conveyancers can still carry out online searches on properties to help progress transactions, and much of the conveyancing process can be managed by phone, email, or video call
- Conveyancers should prioritise support for anyone who is clinically vulnerable, shielding, self-isolating, or with symptoms of coronavirus
- Surveyors and tradespeople can now undertake surveys and inspections of properties, though ideally these should be carried out while the property is empty
- No surveys or inspections should take place if any member of the household is showing symptoms or self-isolating
- Surveys and inspections should be arranged by appointment, with only one person visiting the property at a time
If you’re at the moving stage, congratulations! Under the new updates people are now permitted to move house so long as it’s safe to do so, following these guidelines:
- If you have exchanged contracts or signed a tenancy agreement, you have entered into a legal agreement to move, but the guidelines encourage all parties to remain as flexible as possible over dates and be prepared for possible delays
- Your solicitor can help you to ensure that any contract you enter into has sufficient flexibility to allow the purchase to be delayed if necessary
- You should not expect to move into any home where people are showing symptoms or self-isolating
- Properties should be cleaned thoroughly before the new occupants move in
- Professionals involved in moving house, eg: estate agents, removal firms etc, should also implement any additional precautionary measures to protect their staff and clients
- It’s also recommended that anyone who chooses to move during this time does as much of the packing as possible themselves
In all cases, keep in mind that “the process of finding and moving into a new home will need to be different given those involved in the process will have to adapt practices and procedures to ensure that the risk of spread of coronavirus is reduced as far as possible. This will include doing more of the process online, such as virtual initial viewings, cleaning and vacating your current property, and minimising contact with people from other households, and being flexible on dates and necessary delays.
Above all, stay safe, and use the experience and support of your conveyancer to get as much of the process prepared beforehand, so things run as smoothly as possible.
For more information on the current situation and any other conveyancing-related questions, please get in touch with our property team at www.franceslindsay.co.uk
You can read the fully updated Government guidance, including info for developers, tradespeople, landlords, removals, surveyors, and estate agents, here.