Wondering what to do in terms of buying or selling during lockdown? We explain what is possible.

It’s no surprise that the lockdown has had a huge impact on the property market. According to Zoopla, agreed sales have fallen to about a tenth of the level achieved in early March. The property website says house sale volumes are similar to what we would expect to see in late December.

‘The current situation has been caused by the inability to complete transactions, rather than an imbalance of supply and demand, which was the case back in 2008,’ says MB Associates Managing Director, Monica Bradley. ‘We would therefore hope that the housing market will become buoyant again after lockdown, with people eager to resume with their plans to buy or sell properties.’

But what if you were already in the middle of a transaction when the current restrictions were first imposed? If you are unsure about what to do next then our quick guide will help you to understand what is possible and what you should do next.

Are estate agents open?

Estate agents’ branches are closed, and agents are not allowed to visit people’s homes. They can, however, continue to progress sales where this can be done. The government is urging them to work with their clients and other agents to broker new move dates and prioritise support for anyone with COVID-19 symptoms or those who are self-isolating or shielding from the virus. They been advised to work from home but can still offer a service to customers.

‘We are still working and are here to assist anyone who is looking to buy or sell,’ says Lisa Fowler, Director of Henley Homes Agency, a London-based estate agent. ‘We are spending more time talking to applicants and vendors and getting to know them properly. We are getting to know exactly what the applicants are looking for and what sort of time frame they are looking to work towards and especially helping vendors to get their property ready to go onto the market.’

What if your house is on the market?

If you already had a property on the market when lockdown was imposed, you can keep advertising it for sale but, as you might expect, you are not permitted to allow anyone to come in and view the property. Some estate agents are offering virtual viewings which can help people decide if the property meets their requirements, but in reality, it’s unlikely that anyone would make an offer on the basis of a virtual viewing.

At this stage, virtual viewings may be more about potential buyers deciding if your property is likely to be suitable for their needs and worth viewing in person when restrictions have been lifted. In that sense, it may generate increased interest.

What if you receive an offer on your property?

If you do receive an offer from someone who has previously viewed your property before restrictions came into place, you are free to accept their offer but be aware that the selling process will take longer.

What if you are purchasing or selling a property?

If you were in the middle of purchasing or selling a property when the restrictions came into place, again you should talk to your estate agent or solicitor and try to agree a new move date. The government is urging everyone involved to be as flexible as possible.

What if you were about to exchange contracts?

If you were about to exchange contracts when lockdown came into place, you can continue with the transaction if the property you are buying or selling is unoccupied, as you will be able to move. However, if the property is not empty, you should aim to delay exchange of contracts.

What if you have already exchanged contracts?

If you have already exchanged contracts, you should contact the other party straight away and discuss amending the contract which can be done if you are both in agreement.

Can you move into a property that is currently vacant?

Yes, you can move into a vacant property though you should follow the government guidelines on home removals. Read more here.

Can you move into a property that is currently occupied?

The government’s advice is that it is best to postpone the move and amicably agree an alternative date. There is an exemption for critical home moves, but you must observe social distancing rules. Mortgage lenders are trying to support customers who have exchanged contracts already to extend their mortgage offer for up to three months, so that they can move at a later date. If your circumstances change during this time, your lender will most likely want to work with you to help you manage the situation.

Can you still put your house on the market?

If you are thinking of selling your home, you won’t be able to invite estate agents or surveyors into your property for obvious reasons. However, now is a good time to start pulling together all relevant information and paperwork you will need to provide in order to market your property, such as your energy and performance certificate, so that you are ready to put the house on the market when the restrictions have been lifted.

You can also get a sense of the value of your property. ‘It is definitely worth contacting us if you have a property to sell,’ says Lisa Fowler from Henley Homes. ‘Even though we cannot go into your home at the moment we are carrying out virtual valuations using WhatsApp, FaceTime or Zoom. From this and looking at comparable properties we will be able to give you an idea of what your property is worth.’

What about the future of the property market?

The long-term impact of the current situation depends on how long the restrictions remain in place. Zoopla is predicting that some people who have spent more time at home due to lockdown will start to think about moving to a more spacious property, possibly because of the need to work from home.

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