Propertymark's advice on Buying and Selling your home during the stay-at-home period
The Government has issued advice on moving house during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. There is no need to pull out of transactions, but you must follow guidance to stay at home and away from others at all times, including the specific measures for people who have symptoms or are self-isolating or shielding.
If you are moving into a vacant property, you can continue with this transaction. Where the property is occupied, the government encourages all parties to amicably agree to change the moving date to a time when it is likely that stay-at-home measures against coronavirus (COVID-19) will no longer be in place.
The new police enforcement powers contain an exemption for critical home moves, in the event that a new date is unable to be agreed.
If your move is scheduled during the stay-at-home measures
You should, where possible, delay moving to a new house while measures are in place to fight coronavirus.
If you have already exchanged contracts and the property is occupied, everyone should work together to agree to a delay. If moving is unavoidable, and you are unable to reach an agreement to delay, everyone must follow advice on staying away from others to minimise the spread of the virus.
Anyone with symptoms, or who is self-isolating or shielding from the virus, should follow medical advice, which will mean not moving house for the time being. Everyone involved should prioritise a change of move dates where someone in a sale is in this situation.
What if an extension goes beyond the terms of a mortgage agreement?
UK Finance has confirmed that all mortgage lenders are working to extend mortgage offers for three months, for customers who have exchanged contracts and set dates for completion.
If a customer’s circumstances change during this three month period, and continuing with the mortgage would cause a buyer to face financial hardship, lenders will work with customers to help them manage their finances.
If your home is not yet on the market
Getting your home onto the market may be more challenging than usual at the moment.
If you are thinking about selling, you can use this time to start gathering all of the information you will need to provide to potential purchasers.
Advice for people to stay at home and away from others means you should not invite unnecessary visitors into your home, including:
- Property agents to carry out a market appraisal or take internal photographs prior to marketing your home
- Energy Performance Certificate assessors.
You can speak to estate agents by phone or email. They will be able to give you general advice about the local property market and handle a lot of matters remotely, but they will not be able to start actively marketing your home in the usual way.
If your property is already on the market, you can continue to advertise it as being for sale, but you should not arrange property viewings. Your agent may be able to conduct virtual viewings, speak to them about whether this is possible.
You can continue to accept offers on your property, but the process is likely to take longer than normal.
Once you have exchanged contracts, you have entered into a legal agreement to purchase that home. If the property you are purchasing is unoccupied you can continue with the transaction.
If the property you are purchasing is occupied, Government advice states that all parties should work to delay the exchange of contracts until after the stay-at-home measures to fight coronavirus (COVID-19), or include explicit contractual provisions to account for the risks presented by the virus.
Estate agents should not open branches to the public during this period, or visit your home, but they should be able to support you to:
- Broker a new date to move where sales are due to complete during the stay-at-home period
- Prioritise support for anyone with symptoms, self-isolating or shielding from the virus, and those they are in the chain with, to agree on a new date.
- Progress sales where this can be done whilst following guidance to stay at home and away from others.
Agents following government guidance may advise you not to exchange contracts unless the contracts have explicit terms to manage the timing risks presented by coronavirus.
Conveyancers can continue to support your house sale as far as possible, but you may experience difficulties in completing transactions during this period.
Surveyors should not carry out non-urgent surveys in occupied homes. No inspections should take place if anyone in your house is showing symptoms, self-isolating or being shielded. It may be possible to carry out urgent surveys on empty properties.
Anyone who is committed to a house move is encouraged to agree to delay it however, if a move must go ahead, precautions must be taken to ensure the move is made safely.
It is important to ensure Government guidelines are followed, including maintaining a two-metre distance from others, and washing hands with soap and water often for at least 20 seconds (or using hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available).
No work should be carried out by a person who has coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms, however mild.
This guide is based on Government advice at the time of writing (27 March). Propertymark will keep the guide up to date, but you can check the latest government advice directly on the gov.uk website.