Upheaval in the Property Market

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By Heather Scobie


Nobody will have failed to notice the widespread disruption and misery the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) is causing.

We are also seeing upheaval in the property market. The Government is urging parties involved in home moving “to adapt and be flexible to alter their usual processes.”

Sales and purchases can still continue but all parties involved need to ensure they are following the guidance to stay at home and away from others at all times, including the specific measures for those who are presenting symptoms, self-isolating or shielding.

The situation is slightly less complex where a property is empty – this transaction can continue but the Government’s guidance for house removals should be followed. If a property is occupied, the Government encourage the sellers and buyers involved to do all they can to amicably agree alternative dates to move after the restrictions on movement are no longer in place.

In the new emergency enforcement powers that the police have been given to respond to coronavirus, there is an exemption for house moves in the event that a new date is unable to be agreed. For instance in a chain where one party needs to move for an important reason, other parties may still have to complete.

The overall aim is that home buyers should delay moving while measures are in place to fight the virus but if exchange has already happened, all parties should try to work together to agree a delay. Of course anyone with symptoms, self-isolating or shielding from the virus, should follow medical advice which will mean not moving house for the time being, if at all possible.

On a slightly brighter note UK Finance have confirmed at the end of the week of 23rd March that to support customers who have already exchanged contracts for house purchases and set dates for completion, all mortgage lenders are working to find ways to enable customers who have exchanged contracts to extend their mortgage offer for up to three months to enable them to move at a later date.

There is also the other problem of trying to get your house on the market in the first place as there should not be visitors to the house and estate agents and EPC assessors are not classed as essential (although marketing can occur remotely with some estate agents). Of course viewings cannot take place at this time although perhaps virtual viewings may be possible with some estate agents.

We will need to consider each transaction on it’s own merits – the situation is far more straightforward for an empty property but we will offer advice and support in respect of conditional exchanges with clause to take into account any COVID-19 related delays and in situations where a chain needs to try to renegotiate a date

At Chubb Bulleid we will continue to support our clients during this time and do our utmost to assist. Almost all of us have been working remotely at home for the past two weeks or so and due to our brilliant IT support this is working very smoothly.

As at 17 April  2020