You can find the government’s guidelines relating to moving home during coronavirus here, but what can you do to make sure that you stay safe during the buying and selling process?
Searching for a new home safely
You can do a lot of the research about the area in which you wish to live on the internet. Local government websites are always a good start. Here you can usually find details about schools, leisure and sport, jobs and businesses in the area, as well as information about planning and the environment and any regeneration that is taking place. There are also many community websites that offer advice about the area as well as local newspapers and estate agents which will specialise in the area you wish to move into. When you have decided where you want to live, have a look what is for sale on Rightmove or the estate agents’ websites and contact them to arrange to view the property.
Viewing the property
Before the coronavirus lockdown was lifted, all viewings had to be done virtually, and many estate agents request that you still do this before you make an appointment to visit the property physically. They will arrange this for you. This can save you time and enable you to view more properties before you make the decision about which ones to visit. Once you have found a property that you like, contact the agent responsible for the sale and explain that you have viewed it remotely and would now like to visit it.
Physical viewing of the property may take a little longer to arrange than it did before the lockdown and the agent is likely to ask both buyer and seller a series of questions and give vital information that will help everyone to ensure the viewing is carried out safely, such as:
- whether anyone in the buyer’s or seller’s household is showing any symptoms of COVID-19, or have tested positive for it in the last 14 days
- whether there are any people in a high-risk category living in the property to be viewed
- asking the buyer to attend the viewing with only one other person from their household and not to bring any vulnerable people to the viewing
- letting you know that the professional who will visit the property is not showing any symptoms of the virus and has not tested positive for the virus in the last 14 days
The viewing should then be able to take place at an agreed time and date, but the appointment will not take place in the usual way. For example, you may find that the agent wears a mask and/or gloves, and both buyer and seller may be asked to wear a mask too.
If you are interested in buying a new build home, things may be a little different. You should contact the developer to make an appointment and find out what you need to do to visit. You can find out more about buying a new build home on our website.
How to prepare to sell your house during social distancing?
As the seller, you should prepare the property in a way that means it is safe for the viewing to take place, which might include:
- vacating the property whilst the viewer attends, or only having one person present
- trying to ensure that any other occupants are in a separate room and move around so that the viewers do not bump into them
- opening internal doors and windows and turning on the lights
- opening a loft hatch, if there is one, and lowering the ladder
- ensuring that the viewer knows if they can use toilet facilities, and if so, which one
- wiping down door handles, light switches and surfaces etc., after the viewing as well as before it
- wash hands or use hand sanitiser before entering the property
- maintain social distancing by maintaining a two-metre distance between everyone
- touch as little as possible
- keep the viewing to as short a time as possible. Some agents suggest 15 minutes.
- discuss the property and potential sale with the agent after the visit, outside of the house, to minimise the amount of time everyone spends in it
Open house viewings will not be possible whilst measures to control coronavirus are in place.
Making an offer
If you are buying a house, you should already have your mortgage offer in principle, so that you can make an offer on the property if you wish to buy it. There is speculation that house prices will reduce by 3 – 5% because of the coronavirus crisis, although evidence of this has yet to be seen. There is nothing to stop you trying to negotiate on price if you feel it is appropriate.
As the seller, you may need to be flexible on price at this time. It is understandable that some people may be financially worse off following the lockdown. Don’t forget that you may be able to get a reduction on the cost of the house you are buying too.
Can I still have a survey done on the property?
Once an offer has been made and accepted, it is likely that other people will then need to visit the property to carry out surveys and give estimates for any work that might be necessary. The seller may be able to answer some of the questions needed by mortgage lenders or surveyors by telephone to minimise the amount of time that people need to spend in the house. Ask your estate agent if this can be organised.
How many times can I visit a property?
You may need to visit the house again yourself, for example to measure up. All visits must be made on separate occasions, and anyone who attends the property will need to carry out the same safety and social distancing procedures as on the first visit. All visits should be arranged with the agent. Of course, this may mean that things might take a little longer than usual, especially if someone becomes ill with coronavirus, so everyone should be prepared to be flexible.
Appointing a solicitor
You can contact Graysons to act on your behalf as the conveyancing solicitor in the sale or purchase of your property, secure in the knowledge that we are working safely and remotely and can deal with your property issues without you having to visit us, including:
- Taking your initial instructions.
- Drafting and/or approving the contract
- Checking title and raising and dealing with enquiries and/or responding to enquiries
- Arranging searches and dealing with your mortgage lender and third parties
- Exchanging contracts and dealing with completion
- Paying stamp duty on your behalf and updating the Land Registry.
Again, things may take a little longer than they did before the lockdown and you may need to be patient and flexible to take account of extra measures that coronavirus has made necessary – and also the possibility of someone in the chain becoming ill with the disease.
When everything is agreed and everyone is ready to move, buyer and seller will need to plan carefully and consider issues such as:
- packing as much of your property as you can yourself, leaving less for a removal company to handle
- where possible, cleaning any belongings that a removal company is to handle
- checking with your removal firm which items they can pack, as some may be limited to certain items
- dismantling any furniture that needs it
- staying outside of the property whilst your belongings are packed and loaded into vehicles
- letting the removals people know that you will not be able to provide refreshments for them
- ensuring that removals people have access to hand washing facilities and separate towels – or paper towels
- cleaning the house, before leaving it and when you move in
- ensuring that keys are disinfected before they are handed over
Remember that removals staff will not necessarily be able to maintain a two-metre distance from each other, but you should still maintain that distance between you and them.
Try to co-ordinate your move so that you allow time between leaving one property and moving into another.
Now – enjoy your new home!
You can find lots of information about buying and selling property on our web pages, but please remember that some detail may have changed due to coronavirus. If you need any further assistance, please contact our property experts now.