An Update on Moving Home during the COVID-19 Pandemic

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In a lockdown update last week, the Government announced that, from Wednesday 13th May, property viewings for purchases, sales and lettings would be allowed to recommence. The surprise announcement has led to an increase in work for estate agents and conveyancing staff across the UK, many of whom are planning to reopen gradually and are now putting protective measure into place in branch to make the workplace safe for staff and clients.

The announcement has been met with various queries and concerns from those planning a house move. We’ve put together a general overview of the changes that have been announced, addressing the questions that our team have recently been asked.

 

My sale was put on hold during lockdown. What should I do if my buyer now wants to renegotiate the price?

This has been a difficult time for everyone, including those who have been left in limbo with their house move as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown. As a result, circumstances may have changed for some buyers and they may now wish to renegotiate the agreed purchasing price for your home, which is a perfectly legal request for them to make if you have not yet exchanged contracts.

Whether or not you would like to remain open to renegotiation is entirely up to you. However, it’s never guaranteed that another buyer will be found quickly, so if you’re in a rush to sell, it is advisable to properly evaluate your buyers’ new offer before you make your decision. It is worth noting that, should you agree to negotiate a lower price, the buyers’ mortgage lender may then want to have the property revalued, which could delay the selling process further.

If, however, your buyer has expressed a wish to pull out of the sale after you have already exchanged contracts, this would then be deemed as a breach of contract on their part, and you may be able to issue legal proceedings against them to seek compensation for any losses this may cause for you.

 

Can I conduct house viewings now?  

In short, yes. House viewings can now be conducted, but you should to your part to ensure that they are conducted safely. This includes disinfecting all surfaces before and after a viewing appointment. You might also consider replacing the hand towel in your bathroom with disposable paper towels for guests to dry their hands on to prevent the spread of any bacteria, or making hand sanitiser readily available.

It’s also a good idea to leave all of the doors in the house open when viewings are due to take place so that visitors can move freely from room to room without having to touch door handles. In order to respect social distancing rules, many of those conducting house viewings are now waiting in the garden until potential buyers have finished looking around their home. If this isn’t possible, make sure to stay 2 metres apart from your guests at all times.

If your children are likely to be present at the time of the viewing, be sure to brief them on maintaining social distance in the home and try to keep them away from any surfaces that you have disinfected.

If a couple are interested in your home and wish to make a viewing appointment, but do not currently share a home, they should be encouraged to make separate appointments.

 

What will happen if someone in my chain gets ill, or if there is a second lockdown?

Those involved in buying or selling their home are now being advised to build an additional clause into the contract which acknowledges and makes exceptions for scenarios such as these.

You may also wish to consider building a long-stop completion date into your contracts, for example a date close to the end of the year. This way, if the pandemic is still ongoing, either party are free to back out of the contract without losing their deposit or facing interest charges.

 

How can I speed up the buying/selling process?

The best thing you can do right now to speed up the process of buying or selling your home is to get your solicitor, valuation and survey sorted and organised as soon as possible. There will be a lot of people in a similar position of wanting to get their move finalised now that restrictions have started to ease, and as a result, those who deal with property transactions are likely to be in high demand.

 

At DRN, we offer an unbeatable service credited by The Law Society, and always put our clients first. Contact our Conveyancing team today to find out more about our property services and the fixed price packages that we offer.

 

How can I witness and sign paperwork whilst respecting social distancing rules?

With a number of safety measures now in place in our offices, it is entirely possible to witness and sign any necessary paperwork whilst still respecting and practising social distancing.

Those who are required to visit our offices to provide signatures on any documentation are advised that such visits are available by appointment only. We are not able to grant access to our offices for non-scheduled visits at this time.

Visitors are also advised to maintain a 2-metre distance from staff and any other visitors at all times, taking care to make no physical contact with any other person. As well as this, visitors should, where possible:

  • Bring their own pen to use
  • Wear protective gloves
  • Arrive to the appointment on time, with the aim to complete the process as quickly as possible
  • Wash their hands before and after signing or handling any documentation

Many of our staff are working remotely, and are available to provide updates on the progress of your sale or purchase via telephone or email. Please do not hesitate to get in touch if you require any assistance with buying or selling your home.

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