There have been many changes to the housing market since the Government’s social distancing measures came into force in response to Covid-19. Whilst the market has been facing huge difficulties, transactions can still be progressed and in certain cases still complete. We have found that there remains some confusion as to what can and cannot be done. Leathes Prior is still here to help.
Key Points to understand from the Government’s advice:
The Government has advised that parties should not be arranging to move unless absolutely necessary and that moves should generally be delayed until the current “lockdown restrictions” are lifted (or varied to such an extent to permit ‘normal’ house moving).
However, even pending any such changes, the current guidance does encourage parties to complete on vacant properties or where it is safe to move. There are a number of instances where this would be the case, for example: if you already live at the property, if the property is a new build or if the property is being sold through probate.
Current Changes in the Housing Market:
The Government’s social distancing measures have forced changes for the whole property industry. It is likely that your conveyancer will now be working from home and as such the use of new technology and enhanced systems will become more prevalent in order to progress transactions. For example, conveyancers may request e-signatures or use video conferencing to liaise with their clients and colleagues.
In addition, the rise of virtual tours offered by agents will see more buyers making offers for properties they have not visited. In such cases, buyers should be fully aware of the risks involved in proceeding to an exchange of contracts where they have not inspected the property or arranged a survey.
Ways in which your transaction can still be progressed:
There are still ways to progress your transaction whilst these unprecedented measures remain in place and most parties will be able to reach a point where the only step remaining would be to agree a completion date once it is safe to do so. Searches, legal enquiries and the signing of documents can all be completed in readiness for the lockdown restrictions to be lifted.
If you are considering selling your property but have not yet found a buyer there are a number of ways that you can prepare for when you are allowed to have viewings of your property. These include: requesting quotes from Law Firms/Estate Agents who you would like to assist you, preparing the Law Society Property Information Form and Fixtures and Fittings Form and locating copies of any planning permissions, installation certificates and guarantees for works you may have completed at the property.
If you are looking to buy a property you can also request a quote from your preferred conveyancer or discuss the initial concerns you may have when buying a property. Your conveyancer will ask you to provide evidence of how you will fund your purchase so you should be looking to prepare bank statements and ID. In addition, many mortgage brokers are still working and will be able to provide initial advice.
Leathes Prior, still here to help you:
We have adapted to the market conditions and are very much operating “business as usual”. Most of our lawyers are set up working from home and are able to communicate with clients via telephone, email and video conferencing.
We have been able to progress all ongoing transactions; however, are advising clients not to exchange contracts unless this is on the same date as completion. Although this offers less certainty for parties, it does mean that our clients will be protected from the risk of being in breach of contract if they fail to complete on the agreed completion date. In this uncertain climate there are a number of factors which could lead to a completion date being missed, including: cancelled removals, self-isolation, delays to mortgage funds being paid and changes to a party’s financial circumstances.
Otherwise, we are progressing all transactions to a point where they will be able to complete as soon as the Government’s restrictions are lifted or varied. Clients can, therefore, rest assured that we are poised to act quickly when the time comes.
In the meantime, we are still completing on remortgages, new build sales and purchases, right to buy purchases and sales/purchases of tenanted or vacant properties – all of which remain largely unaffected by the current restrictions.
We are still taking on new instructions, so please do contact our specialist property lawyers by email or by telephone 01603 610911 for a no obligation discussion about your requirements.