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PROPERTY VIEWINGS AND MOVES IN LIGHT OF CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19)

People who are in the process of selling their house and moving to a new home as the UK continues to tackle the transmission of Coronavirus, are left asking ‘What now?’’

First things first, it is essential to stay abreast of current Government and official advice. It is vital that everyone observes the measures that are in place to limit the spread of the virus.

On 13 May, the Government announced that it will be easing restrictions for the property market in England. People who wish to move home can do so, but the advice does not represent a return to normal. Estate agents can now visit your home in order to take photos and videos, prospective buyers are able to view your property and removals companies have been given the green light to facilitate home moves again.

However, the safety and wellbeing of everyone involved is the most important issue, and although there is now more freedom to move home, public health and Government guidance should always come first. In all instances it is important to adhere to social distancing measures and any physical appointments should be postponed immediately if anyone is self-isolating or showing symptoms of coronavirus.

In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, moving home is not permitted and only virtual viewings should take place. The only exceptions are if the property you are moving into is vacant or it is critical for you to move due to your accommodation becoming uninhabitable or instances of domestic violence.

Adapting existing arrangements

All parties are encouraged to adapt and be flexible, altering their usual practices, agreeing alternative dates to move if necessary.

The guidance states that anyone with symptoms, self-isolating or shielding from the virus should follow medical advice which will mean not moving for the time being, if at all possible.

Clinically vulnerable and shielded individuals must carefully consider their personal situation and may wish to seek medical advice before decided whether to move. It is important to take a patient approach if you are in a chain with someone who is vulnerable, allowing them time to safely conduct a move.

Much of the anxiety around house moves comes from the contractual terms and Government has tried to ease this pressure through:

  • Laying down sector specific guidelines;
  • Asking banks and building societies to extend the period prior to the expiry of a mortgage offer;
  • Working with conveyancers to develop a standard legal process for delaying moving completion dates.

Listing properties

You can put your home on the market and start to look for properties you want to move to. Agents can list new properties and in England are able to visit your property to take photos and videos while fully adhering to public health guidance. If any member of the household is showing symptoms or self-isolating then estate agents should not physically visit the property.

Get in touch with your agent to find out how they are working and follow the advice that they put forward. They will be able to explain their own procedures and how they are managing the safety of their staff and clients.

Viewings

As of 13 May, the Government has updated their guidance for England only to allow physically distanced viewings that carefully adhere to public health guidance. It is vital that safety comes first, with the guidance reflecting that with several measures that need to be followed to conduct viewings safely:

  • Viewings must only take place with serious buyers who are genuinely interested in the property.
  • Initial viewings should be done online as virtual viewings.
  • When conducting physical viewings, they should be done by appointment only and open houses are not permitted.
  • If your home is being viewed, open all windows and doors prior to the viewing taking place and if possible, leave the property for the duration of the viewing.
  • Everyone involved must wash their hands prior to the viewing and handwashing facilities should be made available with separate paper towels if possible.
  • Estate agents will look to restrict the number of people present at the viewing in order to follow social distancing guidelines.
  • Once the viewing has finished, the homeowner should ensure surfaces such as door handles are cleaned.

You can find the full Government guidance on property viewings here.

Offers

Offers continue to be made and accepted on properties, many of which were already on the market and conveyancers are carrying out desk-based valuations and searches using local authority online systems wherever possible.

Prospective buyers who have agreed a sale may wish to visit a property again now restrictions have been lifted. They are now able to do so as long as they follow the same advice for viewings, for example, virtual viewings in the first instance, viewings by appointment only, maintaining social distancing and following all hygiene guidance.

Purchasers can also now arrange for a tradesperson to carry out inspections. This should again be carried out by appoint and only one person at a time where possible. No tradespeople should enter a property where a member of the household is showing signs of coronavirus symptoms or self-isolating.

Removals

Removal firms can operate but they must adhere to Government guidance which states how and when work can be carried out in people’s homes.

As of 13 May, the property market has taken its first step of re-opening. It is important to understand that this is only the first step of easing restrictions and that social distancing, public health advice and all Government guidance must be followed to ensure everyone’s safety.

Guidance from www.propertymark.co.uk