Moving House During the Coronavirus Lockdown
Written by Zenyx Griffiths
7th Apr 2020 (Last updated on 19th Jun 2020) 13 minute read
Moving house is often described as one of the most stressful events anyone can go through. However, this is even more so for those trying to buy or sell property during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Due to the latest government advice, homeowners must stay at home unless absolutely necessary. This has resulted in many delays in the moving process. All removals have been halted unless deemed essential, meaning many homeowners are uncertain of future events. However, there are still ways to plan ahead and prepare for your future move once the lockdown is lifted.
Compare My Move has created this article to answer all your vital questions concerning this lockdown period. From whether it’s safe to move house to what you can do to prepare for the future, we have the necessary answers you need if you’re in the process of buying or selling property during the lockdown for COVID-19.
Will Conveyancing, Surveying and Removal Companies Be Operating?
Many companies considered ‘non-essential’ have had to close during the coronavirus lockdown. However, there are some businesses that are able to continue and keep communication lines open by working from home.
Estate Agents - Many estate agents have closed their offices due to the new government restrictions. If able to, many will now be working from home and available to contact. They have been advised to work with their clients to agree on new completion and moving dates. They must prioritise anyone who is self-isolating. Estate agents are still available to progress the sale but you should expect delays when exchanging contracts.
Conveyancers - The official advice for conveyancers is to “continue to support the sales of unoccupied properties as far as possible” and to make clients aware of the difficulties of continuing at this time. They have been asked to advise the clients who are ready to move, not to exchange contracts on occupied properties unless they’ve made the necessary safety provisions. They must also prioritise clients who are self-isolating or exhibiting symptoms, to ensure their removal is rearranged.
Surveyors - Government advice has been for property surveyors to only carry out essential work. Surveyors must not enter the homes of anyone who is self-isolating. It’s possible for them to carry out online work and to continue with urgent work on empty properties.
Removal Companies - Removal companies have been advised to delay pre-arranged removals where possible, with only a small number of moves able to go ahead. Where a move can continue, they must take the necessary precautions to ensure each individual’s safety and reduce the risk of infection. The British Association of Removers (BAR) has also provided advice for those working within the transport sector.
Don’t forget to keep updated and to read through the government’s advice for industry workers.
Buying and Selling a House During the Coronavirus Lockdown
The government’s advice for those in the middle of buying or selling a property is to “to adapt and be flexible” in order to follow the current emergency measures. The parties involved do not need to pull out of the sale but must work together to reschedule important dates and follow social distancing rules.
If the property being moved into is vacant, the transaction can continue if safety measures are put into place and the rules of social distancing are followed. However, you should not leave the house for any reason if you are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19.
If the property is currently occupied, all parties involved must work together to delay the transaction and to agree on a new moving date. Many conveyancers will still be working during the lockdown and so you must work alongside them to delay the conveyancing process.
If You’re Buying
For those buying a home during this period, delays will be expected and house viewings will not go ahead, though it is possible to view houses online. However, if you’re in the middle of a transaction, it is possible for it to continue. The time it takes to exchange and complete will lengthen, but there’s no need to pull out of the sale.
You can use this time to gather any necessary documents and to compare surveying quotes ready for once the restrictions have been lifted. You will most likely be unable to book a property survey but you can still compare quotes in preparation.
If your offer has already been accepted and you’re quite far into the process, then it would be a good idea to use this time to get inspired. Ask your estate agent for the measurements of the new house and start looking online for decor and furniture inspiration, ready for when you can eventually move in.
If You’re Selling
If you’ve recently put your house up for sale, you can expect the process to be delayed during the lockdown. If you’re working with an estate agent, know that no house viewings will be completed at this time, although your property can remain on the market. Despite many agents’ offices being closed, you’ll still be able to communicate with your estate agent as many are now working from home.
If you’re waiting for the restrictions to be lifted to sell your home, you can review any feedback you’ve been given and prepare your home for the sale. Research how you can add value to the property and what will help make for a quicker transaction in the future. If you receive an offer, you are able to accept it, but the process will likely take longer than normal.
If you’re a seller in the middle of a transaction, it’s recommended not to pull out of the sale. You can still prepare for when the restrictions are lifted and continue as usual. For example, you can compare surveying quotes from RICS qualified surveyors for once lockdown is over. The sale could still progress but expect a delay when exchanging contracts.
Exchange and Completion
If you haven’t yet exchanged contracts, you will still be able to continue with the transaction, but it will be delayed. You should use this time at home to contact a conveyancer who can then progress the transaction and help you prepare for when the restrictions are lifted.
If you have exchanged contracts and are waiting to confirm your day of completion, you’ll have to work with the other parties involved to delay the process. You must then amicably agree on a new completion date for when the restrictions are lifted.
Once you’ve exchanged contracts, the buyer and seller are both contractually obliged to complete the transaction. However, unless vital, this is not possible during the coronavirus lockdown and so a new date needs to be agreed. Your solicitors will both need to negotiate and agree on a new course of action. Once all parties are happy, a written agreement can be created to amend the contract. An e-signature will likely be required to avoid contamination.
If you’re considered ‘vulnerable’ or are self-isolating, it is vital that you agree to a new deadline to reduce the risk of contamination. If you’re in one of these categories, you should not move house during the lockdown. You can view the advice from Public Health England for further information.
For those who cannot agree on a new completion date or those who have a move deemed as critical, then the removal can go-ahead if the correct safety precautions are put into place. Many removal companies are still operating and they will ensure that extra health and safety measurements are applied. If you move, you will still have to abide by the social distancing measures and it’s recommended you deep clean your new home afterwards.
What About Mortgage Offers?
It’s understandable why many movers are concerned about their mortgage and mortgage repayments during this time. However, on March 26th, UK Finance announced that British mortgage lenders would begin allowing home movers who’ve already exchanged contracts to extend their mortgage offers for 3 months. This would then allow them to move house at a later date.
Robin Fieth, Chief Executive of the Building Societies Association, stated, “Lenders and borrowers face an unprecedented set of circumstances. People who would have been preparing and expecting to move house in the coming weeks now face a wait until COVID-19 restrictions can be lifted.” He continues by saying that “ it would be unfair for these people to have to start their mortgage application all over again” and that a “three-month extension of existing mortgage offers” would be “a fair and reasonable step to take.”
Many banks and lenders are also trying to slow down activity by imposing longer turnaround times, increasing interest rates and lowering loan to value (LTV) ratios. On March 30th, Nationwide, the UK’s second-largest mortgage lender, announced that they would be temporarily withdrawing mortgages above 75% LTV.
If you’re still unsure, contact your mortgage lender to check if your offer is still valid. You should also contact them if your employment situation changes and you’re concerned that the amount your borrowing is no longer manageable. Please be aware that, during this crisis, your mortgage lender will not be allowed to repossess your home.
How Will Landlords and Tenants Be Affected?
Understandably, landlords and tenants alike have been feeling the strain, wondering what the emergency measures could mean for them. Many landlords have even seen foreign tenants leaving with only 24-hours notice, due to them having to fly back to their home country before the British lockdown.
However, there have been measures taken to protect both landlords and tenants during this difficult time. Some of the steps the government have taken include:
- Banning tenant evictions for 3 months.
- Allowing landlords with buy-to-let mortgages to defer their mortgage payments if there’s proof that the tenant is in difficulty and if the landlord is passing on the mortgage savings.
- Those who are on Universal Credit will be paid an extra £1,000 over the next 12 months.
- Covering the rent of tenants who are on benefits.
You can find the official government statement on the recent support available for landlords and renters here.
Information on Letting Property During Lockdown
Part of the regulations for letting out a property in the UK includes a variety of home visits and contact with other workers like electricians and gas workers, as well as the tenants themselves. Landlords are usually required to carry out certain repairs and maintenance, which can sometimes include visits from contractors too.
If these visits are considered ‘urgent’ or ‘vital’, then they may still be able to go ahead, as long as the right health and safety precautions are met. Many tradespeople are also still allowed into people’s homes for maintenance and repairs if necessary. These visits must not be carried out, however, on homes containing sick or self-isolating tenants.
Landlords and agents do have the option of recording any problems and reporting them to their local housing office. This ensures they’re able to protect themselves whilst also acknowledging the issues at hand.
Advice to any landlords who are unable to visit the tenants’ homes, is to make a note of when the certificates were originally due and to speak to the relevant tradespeople. You can then record when you contacted them and why the visit was postponed. For further information targeted towards tenants and landlords during the lockdown, you can visit the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) website and read the latest update from Gas Safe Register.
Can You Move House During Lockdown?
In short, you should not move house unless it’s essential for you to do so.
The government has already advised homeowners to halt their transactions where possible and to stay home unless it’s completely vital. This applies to removals too. To lower the risk of infection, it’s important to stay inside and only venture out for essential trips.
If the house is already occupied, you must not move in due to the possible spread of the virus. All parties involved in the transaction should agree on a new moving date, one that is likely to occur when the government restrictions are more relaxed.
You are allowed to move house if you’re unable to agree to a new moving day, classing it as a ‘vital move’. Critical home moves are exempt from the rule but each individual involved must observe typical social distancing rules. It is also possible to continue with the move if the property is vacant and if the removal company takes the necessary steps to help reduce the risk of COVID-19.
However, if anyone involved in the transaction is self-isolating, the move must not go ahead and all parties involved must agree on a new date. You can read the government’s advice for home movers here.
Our Top Tips to Help You Plan Ahead During Lockdown
Even though we’re confined to our homes, it doesn’t mean you can’t use this time to plan ahead and start preparing for your future move once lockdown is lifted. To help you get started, Compare My Move has created a list of top tips to help you plan, prepare and even save money on your future move.
1. Clean and Declutter - Whilst you’re waiting for the lockdown to be lifted, it would be a good idea to deep clean your home and start decluttering each room. Fewer items mean less money spent when you can eventually book your removal. With less moving boxes and fewer items for the removal team to handle, you’ll be saving yourself time and money.
2. Research and Prepare in Advance - Now is the time to get organised and prepare what you can whilst at home. Research some of the things you’ll need before your future move and start gathering them together. See if you can find any vital documents, plan your moving essentials bag, anything that is deemed essential to the move. Whilst researching, you could even look at some decor and furniture ideas for your new home to inspire you.
3. Start Packing - Once you know what items will be going to the new house with you, start packing what you can. Don’t pack everyday essentials, but see what you can do whilst you’re waiting. Don’t forget to label the boxes.
4. Compare Quotes - No matter when you move house, it’s important to shop around and compare quotes from trusted professionals. Whilst in lockdown, it’ll be a good idea to compare conveyancing quotes, surveying quotes and also compare removal companies ready to beat the post-lockdown competition. Ensure you’re connected with the best in the business and compare quotes ready for when the lockdown is finally lifted.
Saving Time and Money on Your Future Move
Despite the current emergency measures restricting and delaying the buying and selling process, there are still ways you can plan ahead. Whether you’re comparing conveyancing, surveying or removal quotes, Compare My Move is still working hard to connect you with the best in the business.
By following the government’s advice and the social distancing rules, you can still make some progress whilst also staying safe at home. Only move house if it is essential and if the correct safety measures are in place. Remain positive and above all else, follow the government’s advice to stay safe.