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UK lockdown: Practical tips if you were in the process of buying or selling a home

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25/03/2020
With the UK now in lockdown due to the threat of coronavirus, those looking to buy or sell a property are stuck in limbo. Here are practical tips for these uncertain times.

You may be waiting to exchange or may have completed and were awaiting receipt of the keys. Or you could have decided to sell your property after the Brexit uncertainty lifted at the end of the last year.

Whatever your house buying or selling situation, everything now is on ice as the government announced the UK is on lockdown in a bid to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Price comparison site Reallymoving offers practical tips and advice about what to expect for people at all stages of the home move process:

Not exchanged yet

Ensure all queries have been answered and as much of the process has been completed as possible, so you’re ready to exchange as soon as the lockdown is lifted.

Already exchanged

If you’re due to complete within the next three weeks, speak to your solicitor as soon as possible to try and agree a new completion date beyond the lockdown period with all other parties.

Completion date beyond the three week lockdown

If you’ve already exchanged with a completion date beyond the next three weeks, monitor the situation closely. Ask your solicitor to begin conversations with other parties. Again you may need to act quickly to agree a new date if the lockdown period is extended.

Money laundering checks and searches

Money laundering checks require buyers to provide certified copies of proof of identity and proof of address documents. This can still be carried out at the Post Office.

Reallymoving said there will be delays to searches as Local Authority offices go into lockdown and they won’t be able to physically carry them out. If searches on your purchase haven’t been completed, you may have to wait until lockdown restrictions are lifted.

Arranging a survey

It’s not possible for a surveyor to carry out a survey on a property as this is considered non-essential activity. Buyers will need to wait for restrictions on movement to be lifted.

Moving day

The British Association of Removers has issued guidance to members which has naturally postponed all moves during the lockdown period, except those which are already underway. Michael Gove MP said there will be specific cases where people can continue to move home, but the government has yet to clarify this point.

While the physical part of removals is postponed, customers can still get quotes and choose a removal firm.

Surveys can be carried out over Facetime in order to provide removals quotes, which will take a little longer than an in-person visit. However, these may result in missing items, so be sure to double check the quote to make sure everything is included.

Preparing to sell

Hardware stores are currently on the government’s list of retail outlets permitted to remain open. However, remember the government’s advice about not leaving your home unless it’s essential.

Take the time to freshen up your property, declutter the loft, garage and outbuildings; clean and box up everything you want to take with you. You will need to store the items you no longer need until charity shops and recycling centres re-open.

Create a spreadsheet of all the suppliers you need to notify regarding a change of address and prepare letters or emails to be sent at the appropriate time.

House hunting

For those who planned on house hunting, you now need to do your research online. Check out the local market and review sold property prices. Read the Ofsted reports of schools, check transport links and Google Streetview local facilities such as high streets, parks and gardens.

Don’t wait till the lockdown is over to begin conversations with agents. Talk to them on the phone now to let them know what you’re looking for.

If you find a property online that you’re interested in, speak to the agent to check if a 360° virtual viewing is available. Many estate agents have adapted rapidly to video viewings in the last few weeks, enabling buyers to undertake virtual walk-throughs of every room.

You can also carry out video consultations with agents through WhatsApp, Skype and Facetime.

Securing a mortgage

Reallymoving said it’s more important than ever to ensure your financial affairs are in order and that you secure a mortgage offer in principle before you begin house hunting. Be aware there could be delays to new loan applications as lenders focus on delivering payment holidays for existing borrowers.

Use this time to prepare evidence of job security as it’s likely they will be checking this even more closely than usual.

With surveyors currently unable to carry out valuation surveys, expect your application to be delayed.

If you already have a mortgage offer in place, speak to your lender or broker to check the offer is still valid and that the level of borrowing you’re taking on remains affordable if your job situation changes.

Rob Houghton, CEO of Reallymoving, said the UK-wide lockdown will leave thousands of home movers’ plans put on hold, while some chains will collapse under the weight of uncertainty.

“For those who haven’t yet exchanged contracts it would be wise to hold off until the lockdown period is over, to avoid a situation where you are legally committed to completing but physically unable to move due to lockdown restrictions.

“If you have already exchanged and are waiting to complete, speak to your solicitor as soon as possible to try and agree a new completion date with all other parties. Our strong advice is to keep the lines of communication open between all parties and show as much goodwill as possible.

“Those who now unexpectedly find themselves at home with time on their hands, should use it wisely to get all their affairs in order. Do as much online research as possible, prepare your home and garden for sale and ensure you’re in the best position to move forward when the crisis subsides.”

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