The Housing Market Has Re-Opened: here’s what you need to know
The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick, announced that the residential property market could re-open with immediate effect.
The government has published extensive guidance today (Wednesday 13th May) covering many aspects of the residential property market, detailing who can do what, and setting out how the changes to the rules will affect the way things will work for the foreseeable future.
The full guidance can be viewed here.
"One thing is clear – people who wish to move home can now do so, provided the government guidance is followed."
We’ve set out below a summary of some of the changes and guidance which are most relevant, which will answer some of the questions you might have.
The most obvious advice is that with which we are all familiar – wash your hands frequently and wherever possible, stay at least 2 metres apart from people who are not members of your household.
House viewings – sellers
- Open house viewings are not permitted.
- Vacate your property whilst potential buyers are being shown around.
- Ensure that the surfaces of your property such as kitchen worktops and door handles are thoroughly cleaned between viewings.
- Open all internal doors.
- If possible, allow access to handwashing facilities and ideally separate towels/paper towels.
House viewings – buyers
- Initial house viewings should be virtual wherever possible.
- You should only physically view a property with members of your current household, and should keep the number of people viewing to a minimum.
- You should not take children to physical viewings, if it can be avoided.
- You should avoid touching surfaces and take your own hand sanitiser when physically viewing properties.
It is likely that estate agents will explain their procedure to you in detail when you first make contact with them to buy or sell a house. We recommend that you contact estate agents via telephone in the first instance, as most estate agents will only offer meetings via appointment at their offices. Their new processes may include asking you questions about your health and requiring a virtual viewing before you are physically able to view a property.
The conveyancing process
- The conveyancing process will remain largely the same, although most solicitors are currently working remotely.
- All parties are encouraged to be as flexible as possible and be prepared to delay house moves if someone becomes ill with coronavirus or has to self-isolate.
- The government may decide to pause all homes moves for a short period of time to manage the spread of coronavirus, if it deems this is necessary.
- Surveyors are now able to carry out surveys of residential properties.
- If your home is being surveyed, ensure the surveyor has access to all parts of the property they need to inspect, and try to minimise contact with the surveyor.
- Try to do as much as possible of the packing up of your possessions yourself.
- Everyone involved in the moving process must follow social distancing.
- Removal firms are allowed to operate, although their usual procedures may change to ensure the safety of their own staff and their customers.
- Where possible, clean your belongings before they are handled by others, including removal firms.
- Whilst removers are in your home, ensure any internal doors are open and try to minimise your contact with them.
- Do not provide refreshments, but if possible, allow access to handwashing facilities.
If you are self-isolating or have tested positive for coronavirus
- You should not leave your home, either to move home or to undertaking property viewings.
- If you are selling, you must not allow viewings to take place in your home.
- If you have exchanged contracts, you should inform your solicitor or conveyancers as soon as possible, so that arrangements can be made to delay your move until you and all members of your household have come to the end of your self-isolation period.
The changes to the restrictions apply to properties in England only. The restrictions are unchanged in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
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If you have any queries about the conveyancing process, please contact our Residential Conveyancing team at firstname.lastname@example.org
All information in this update is accurate at the time of writing. It is meant for general information only and is not legal advice.