• David Coggin

Housing Market Remains Open During Lockdown

Whilst England and Scotland are in lockdown, the latest official guidance says that you are still able to move home throughout the period, as long as you follow strict safety guidelines.

In this article we answer some of most common questions we’ve been asked by home-movers in England, Scotland and Wales about what the restrictions mean if you’re starting out on your search or are already in the process of moving.

housing market

I live in England, can I move home?

Yes, the government’s official guidance says you can still move home and estate agents have been told they can continue to work.

In the latest guidance it says that carrying out activities related to buying, selling, letting or renting a residential property are reasonable excuses to leave home.

But the most important thing is that you follow the guidance to help everyone stay safe, and throughout last year agents changed how they operate to keep to these safety guidelines.

If you are already in the process of moving, people outside your household or support bubble should not help you move home unless it’s absolutely necessary.

I live in Wales, can I move home?

In Wales, Tier 4 restrictions have been in place since 20th December. The latest advice is that you are able to move home if you cannot delay the moving date until after Tier 4 restrictions are lifted.

The official guidance in Wales strongly advises that virtual viewings are used wherever possible, though viewings of properties can take place during alert level 4, but mixing must be avoided during viewings.

High street estate agencies in Wales have been required to close to the public, but activities such as removals, property preparation, handover of keys, surveys and valuations can take place in line with the guidance on working in other people’s homes.

Key things to consider are:

  • Use virtual viewings of properties where possible

  • Properties should be unoccupied when physical viewings take place

  • Follow government advice on social distancing during a viewing

  • The wearing of masks by all parties during a viewing

  • Practice good hand hygiene and ‘touch free’ viewings

  • Thoroughly clean properties before and after viewings

For more information on the latest official guidance for home-movers in Wales, click here.

I live in Scotland, can I move home?

The Scottish government has said that, whilst people can still “conduct activities in connection with moving home or the essential maintenance, purchase, sale, letting or rental of a residential property that you own or are responsible for”, you are strongly advised to postpone at this time, if possible.

The advice goes on to say that home-movers should search for property online and do viewings virtually in the first instance and only physically view a property which “you most likely want to move into”.

To read the latest official for Scottish home-movers, click here.

Can I put my home on the market?

Yes, you can put your home on the market and look for properties to buy or rent. However, if you or any member of your household is showing symptoms of coronavirus or is self-isolating, then estate agents and potential buyers should not visit your property in person.

Estate agents can still visit to take photos of your property, but of course, they need to follow the appropriate safety guidance. As usual, you should also start to gather together the necessary documents to sell your home.

To help prevent the spread of infection, the government recommends that you carry out initial property searches online, and only visit a property in person when you are seriously considering making an offer on it.

If you’re planning to buy a new-build property, you should contact the developer. You should be able to make an appointment to view the show home or visit the particular plot you are interested in purchasing.

Can I go on a property viewing?

Yes, if you’re looking to move home, you can continue going to viewings during lockdown.

But you should if possible ask for a virtual viewing first. It’ll reduce the number of viewings you have to go on, which will help minimise the spread of germs.

It could also save you time, because you’ll have a better idea of whether a house is worth seeing or not. When viewing a property in person, make sure you wear a face mask, avoid touching surfaces, and wash your hands or use sanitiser before and after.

There shouldn’t be more than two households within the property at any one time, and viewings should only be arranged by appointment, so ‘open houses’ aren’t happening at the moment.

If you’re selling your home and are having interested buyers come around to have a look, open all the inside doors beforehand so they don’t have to touch the door handles.

It’s recommended that you’re not in the property during the viewing, and that you disinfect all surfaces after.

I’m in the middle of buying a home, should I expect any delays during lockdown?

It’s possible that in some areas the conveyancing process will be slower than usual right now.

This is because some solicitors and agents may be operating at limited capacity, or are very busy working through deals that have stacked up since last year.

If you’re about to enter into a legally binding contract, you should discuss the possible implications if someone has to self-isolate or quarantine. Ask your legal representative if they can include provisions to manage these risks in the contracts.

If someone in your household – or the other party’s – begins to show any Covid or flu-like symptoms just as you’re about to complete, you should postpone things by a few weeks.

The government says we should all remain flexible in this sort of scenario, so it would be ideal if your contracts can reflect that.

I’m a renter, can I still move home?

Yes, renters can still look for properties and move homes.

Cleaners are also still allowed to carry out work in your home, so if you need to bring in a professional cleaner before the end of your tenancy, you’re allowed to do so.

Renters should follow the same safety guidance that applies to buyers during this period, such as doing online viewings first, and you can find the official advice in full, here.

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