30th March 2020
For anyone looking to purchase a property or for those who have a transaction agreed but not yet completed, the Coronavirus has created a considerable amount of uncertainty about how to progress.
The Government has now issued guidance to assist sellers, buyers, agents and conveyancing firms determine a practical and safe way forward. The overriding advice from the Government is that, due to the uncertainties and health concerns that result from the virus, that all parties to a residential sale and purchase should ‘adapt and be flexible to alter their usual processes’. The Government has confirmed that there is no need to pull out of a transaction, but it is expected that all concerned will follow all guidance and advice on social distancing and self-isolating. The Government has also confirmed that critical home moves are exempt from the new enforcement powers granted to police.
The specific advice the Government offers for transactions already in progress is as follows;
- If a property being purchased is vacant then you may complete the transaction as long as any move/removals can be safely undertaken (see later).
- Where contracts are already exchanged, then it is advised that parties should work together ‘to agree where possible, a delay or another way to resolve this matter’ or ‘include explicit contractual provisions to take account of the risks presented by the virus’. Where a delay cannot be agreed for contractual reasons then in completing the transaction ‘people must follow advice on staying away from others to minimise the spread of the virus’.
- The Government is working with lenders to ensure that mortgage offers can be extended where completions are delayed due to the current crisis. It is anticipated that lenders will offer a three-month extension to buyers who have exchanged but agree to delay completion.
- If you have agreed a purchase subject to contract, the conveyancing may be progressed. Where the transaction is ready to exchange, it may proceed on the basis that the property is empty and any move can be safely undertaken (see later). For occupied properties, parties should only consider exchanging contracts if they can make explicit provision for the risks presented by the virus.
- The Government has also provided advice to removal firms stating that they should honour existing commitments where the move can be managed safely for the client and the removal team. Where removal firms do continue to provide services, they must act in accordance with the Governments guidance on working in people’s homes.
Notwithstanding the above, if anyone involved in a transaction has symptoms, is self-isolating or shielding from the virus, they should not move house. All parties to the transaction (including parties at other points in a chain) should be accommodating to the need to delay the transaction under such circumstances.
If you are actively looking for a property, but have not yet found one, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to undertake a physical viewing during the period of the coronavirus outbreak. However, there are a number of proactive measures that you can undertake to get yourself ready for when circumstances return to normal. These include;
- Get ready – make sure you have the key administrative matters in place to allow you to proceed quickly when the current restrictions on property viewing are lifted and it is safe to proceed.
- Know your budget – work out your budget including the purchase price and all ancillary costs such as stamp duty, conveyancing fees, moving fees, new furniture etc. Also ensure you fully understand and have budgeted for the annual running costs of the property including mortgage payments, property taxes, utilities, commuting to work, expected annual maintenance costs and the like. If you are considering buying a leasehold property ensure that your budget also allows for ground rent and the annual maintenance charge.
- Pick a location - you know the saying – location, location, location! But don’t just choose a location because of its desirable postcode. Give some thought to the matters that are really important to you and your family such as school catchment area, outdoor green areas, local shops, access to transportation, local area safety, etc. Narrow your search areas to ensure that you get the right balance between desirable postcode, quality of property and access to all the local area attributes and amenities that are important.
- Make a checklist - make a checklist of the things you absolutely need and can’t compromise on, the things that would be “nice to have” and also anything that would make a property an absolute “no go” for you.
- Do your research - use the internet to browse what’s available in the area and get a feel for prices and affordability. Look at how much recent properties have sold for. Give us a call at Aspire to get some free advice on market conditions.
- Consider your financing – take advantage of the reduction in interest rates and arrange a call with a mortgage advisor or lender to understand how much you can borrow and get the application moving.
It is an uncertain time for both buyers and sellers, but as a buyer you can use the time constructively to make sure that you are ready to quickly proceed when circumstances return to normal.
Want to know more?
As we start to move out of lockdown, what transactional volume can we expect for residential property for the balance of 2020?:
Also, had COVID-19 accelerated the trend to home working and will this continue post lockdown?