Government’s COVID19 home sales advice

The housing market has moved from being buoyant in the first two months of the year to being on hold.  Government’s COVID19 home sales advice, issued on 13 May 2020, now means people are free again to move home.  Have a look at the latest news on how the market is re-opening.

The key recommendations which the government wants us to follow are:-

  • people are free to move home, however the process of finding and moving into a new home is likely to be different, as those involved in the process will need to adapt practices and procedures to ensure that the risk of spread of coronavirus is reduced as far as possible. It is vital that everyone stays alert and safe.
  • Initial viewings should be done virtually wherever this is possible and property agents should help you to do this.
  • All physical viewings should be limited to members of the same household and open house viewings should not take place.
  • When physically viewing properties, where possible, you should avoid touching surfaces, wash your hands regularly, and bring your own hand sanitiser. The number of people on a viewing should be minimised to those from your household that absolutely have to be there. If you need to be accompanied by small children, you should try to keep them from touching surfaces and ensure they wash their hands regularly.
  • If people are being shown around your current home, you should open all internal doors and ensure surfaces, such as door handles, are cleaned after each viewing with standard household cleaning products.
  • As most people choose to, we recommend that you vacate your property whilst viewings are taking place in order to minimise your contact with those not in your household.
  • Anyone involved in any aspect of the home moving process should practice social distancing in line with public health advice.
  • When moving between properties, you and those in your household should try to do as much of the packing yourself as you can. Where this is not possible, you should speak to removal firms in advance. There is further advice about this below.
  • If you are particularly worried about the risk of infection, then speak to the professionals involved, your landlord, estate agent or removers as they may be able to put in place extra measures.

Everyone involved in the moving process must follow social distancing to minimise the spread of the virus.

What does this mean for my move?

While the virus is being fought, Government’s home sales COVID19 advice is that if you have already exchanged contracts and the property is currently occupied then all parties should work together to agree a delay or another way to resolve this matter.

If you’re hoping to complete on your transaction in the next few days or weeks, here’s what to watch out for.

  • Expect more to be done digitally
  • Throughout property transactions, physical documents such as Land Registry forms, reports and contracts are changed hands numerous times. You can expect all parties involved to move to a more secure digital document transfer system, email and document sharing platforms.
  • So expect to receive your documentation by email or online than hard copies in the post.
  • Make sure password protection is used.
  • Avoid possible security breaches by speaking to the person to whom you are sending documents – and especially money – before you press send.
  • Electronic signatures are valid under English law to execute or sign documents, so don’t be concerned if your conveyancer opts for this.

Specific delays you may encounter

Not surprisingly some buyers or sellers may get “cold feet”.  If this could be the case in your transaction, it’s worth speaking to your conveyancer about your concerns so that no one’s time – or money – is wasted.

In order to make sure your sale or purchase does happen, the key thing is to get through to exchange, when parties are contractually bound and the deposit is paid, and completion, the day the balance of the payment is made and ownership changes hands.
After exchange

If completion does not take place after contracts have been exchanged due to COVID-19, then your conveyancer will need to look at the contract provisions about breach and advise whether a seller failing to complete can be compelled to do so – and whether, in the case of a buyer failing to complete, the seller can keep the deposit and additional costs.

In reality, if the failure to complete is due to illness or self isolation, we would hope that the parties would work together to come to a reasonable agreement regarding delay. If the transaction forms part of a chain of transactions, it may not be possible to take such a view without incurring a penalty.

These are unprecedented times. Get your conveyancer’s view on your transaction and try to act in a way that is fair to everyone, especially if you’re in a chain. Everyone is facing the same issues so remember to be considerate, accommodating and sympathetic where you can.

I intend to sell, what should I do now?

There is no reason not to get your house ready for sale, engage an estate agent and market your property.  No one can say for sure, but our best guess is that we should see a recovery through the summer.  Until you secure a buyer, there is much you could do in the meantime to prepare your home for sale. Check out our guidelines on the key steps in selling your home and get it in the best possible condition for sale.

The key partners in the sale process will be your estate agent and your conveyancer, the lawyer responsible for the legal parts of your sale.

Look at our guides on the questions to ask estate agents to select the right partner for you. You can also get ahead by using our comparison service,, to select the best conveyancer for you including the fees they would charge. Always remember that estate agents earn referral fees (which you pay for) of as much as £300 to recommend a particular conveyancer. Engaging a conveyancer early will mean that you are ahead of the game with all the necessary paperwork completed when you secure an offer.  This will allow you to avoid the inevitable delays when the market frees.

We don’t pay referral fees so you can avoid that cost and save money by using our comparison service. And remember, our selection process means that only conveyancers with proven levels of customer service are featured.