market moving house Residential

Moving home during the COVID-19 outbreak: Government guidance as at 30th March 2020

Q1 2020

The UK government through the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government has provided additional guidance for people buying or selling private residential homes which they intend to live in during these unprecedented times.

Vanessa Hale

Director, Research

+44 20 7318 4675

Given the current situation in the UK with regard to COVID-19, all parties involved in home moving have been urged to adapt and be flexible to the usual house purchasing processes. At this time the government advises that there is no need to pull out of transactions, but all parties are to ensure that they are following guidance to stay at home and away from others at all times, including the specific measures for those who are presenting symptoms, self-isolating or shielding.

What if your property is already on the market?

You can continue to advertise your home as being for sale or let, but you should not allow people in to view your property. Your estate agent may be able to conduct a Virtual Viewing and you should speak to them about this possibility.

Can I accept an offer on my home?

The buying and selling or letting process can continue during this uncertain period but you should be aware that the process is likely to take longer than normal.

Can I exchange contracts/conclude missives on selling my home?

Once you have exchanged contracts, you have entered into a legal agreement to purchase that home.

Are you moving to a vacant property?

Where the property being moved into is vacant, then you can continue with the transaction although you should follow the guidance on home removals (see below).

Are you moving to an occupied property?

Where the property is currently occupied, it is encouraged that all parties do all they can to amicably agree alternative dates to move, for a time when it is likely that stay-at-home measures against COVID-19 will no longer be in place.

Is your home move critical?

In the new emergency enforcement powers that the police have been given to respond to coronavirus, there is an exemption for critical home moves, in the event that moving is unavoidable for contractual reasons and the parties are unable to reach an agreement to delay, people must follow advice on staying away from others to minimise the spread of the virus.

Can a removals company still assist in moving home?

There will be people who have already committed to moving home; where possible the government are encouraging them to delay their move, but a small number of moves may need to go ahead. The removers should honour their existing commitments where it is clear that the move can be done safely for the client and your own staff and it is clear that the moving date cannot be moved. They should follow the latest Government guidance which currently (26th March 2020) states that work carried out in people’s homes can continue, provided the tradesperson is well and has no symptoms or coronavirus (COVID-19).

If your home is not yet on the market?

Getting your home onto the market may be more challenging than usual in this period, as there should be no visitors to your home. You can however speak to our estate agents over the phone and they will be able to give you general advice about the local property market and handle certain matters remotely, but they will not be able to start actively marketing your home in the usual manner. This includes carrying out market appraisals, taking internal photographs or having energy performance certificates completed.

What measures are the industry professionals taking to ensure smooth transactions today?

Recognising that all parties will need to alter common practice, the government have sought to ease this process for all involved by:

  • Agreeing with banks that mortgage offers should be extended where delay to completions takes place in order to prioritise safety. UK Finance have confirmed that, to support customers who have already exchanged contracts for house purchases and set dates for completion, all mortgage lenders are working to find ways to enable customers who have exchanged contracts to extend their mortgage offer for up to three months to enable them to move at a later date. If a customer’s circumstances change during this three-month period or the terms of the house purchase change significantly and continuing with the mortgage would cause house buyers to face financial hardship, lenders will work with customers to help them manage their finances as a matter of urgency.
  • Conveyancers should continue to support the sales process as far as possible and should make sure their clients are aware of the difficulties of completing transactions in this period.

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 the 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.