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Property Market During Coronavirus Questions And Answers

With the current coronavirus outbreak, plus numerous changes over the last few months, many buyers, sellers, and renters are naturally uncertain about how to move forward in the current property market.

We’ve tried our best to answer the most important questions, but if you have more get in touch with the team from haart. We might be working from home, but we’re still here and happy to help.

What is the property market like at the moment?

Despite all the disruption, the property market is active, assisted by the Stamp Duty holiday which runs through to the 30th June 2021 and the end of September for some price brackets. After a busy first few months of the year, structurally this hasn’t changed to date. Some challenges need to be overcome and new ways of working adopted, but there are still plenty of people looking for their ideal home. Since the easing of lockdown, there has been high demand from buyers and sellers to move and this has continued through recent restrictions.

Interest rates have been reduced to a record low of 0.1% by the Bank of England, meaning that mortgages are more affordable and repayment rates will be lower.

New technology and processes

The property industry has adapted to find new ways of working while staying safe during the lockdown. New technology means agents can conduct virtual viewings to generate interest for properties on the market, then those that would like an in-person viewing can arrange one. 

Alternatives for signing contracts, like using video calls as a means of witnessing signatures and scanning signed contracts instead of posting them are all helping keep business flowing. Measures have been introduced so that regulators and lenders can now accept scanned photographs, meaning that certified copies of ID are no longer required.

From May 2020, the housing market in England opened within the social distancing guidelines. We introduced policies and procedures for staying safe which you can read here. Regulations allow viewings to take place where it is safe to do so and updated regulations regarding these changes can be found here.   

What is possible during lockdown?

In Wales, a level 4 lockdown was put in place on 28th December 2020.  Housing market activity has again been subject to certain restrictions and our branch teams continue to work from home.  Viewings and valuations can still take place but virtually in the first instance.  You can find the full guidance on moving in alert level 4 here.

On Tuesday 5th January 2021, England entered a new lockdown (lockdown 3) period. As before, the property market can continue to operate and our branch teams continue to work from home, thereby playing our part in controlling the spread of the virus. Our safe and secure operating procedures reduce the risks for both our customers and staff.

Should I take my home off the market?

If your property is already listed, then there is no need to take it off the market unless you feel this is the right thing to do. Given the circumstances, there are still plenty of searches happening and enquiries being made. Enquiries have increased since social distancing guidelines came into force, which is a great sign for sellers.   

Many people looking to move will still be shortlisting properties and making plans for when normality resumes. Keeping your property on the market and allowing agents to conduct virtual viewings before physical viewings is a great help to generate interest in your property while keeping you safe.

It’s also important to remember that you can accept offers from prospective buyers from virtual viewings.

Should I put my home on the market?

With good levels of activity in the housing market, it's a great time to put your house on the market. Since the easing of measures, we have had a high demand from buyers and sellers for properties, so if you are looking to move, there are lots of motivated buyers out there looking for a property as well. 

How much demand is there for your home? Use our calculator to find out

We are offering virtual valuations and viewings if you are unsure of having an agent round for a valuation at first. Our agents are largely working from home, to avoid unnecessary contact with others and have our Stay Safe process in place.  

If you’re still in the early stages of trying to sell your property, it’s still worth speaking to your agents. They might tell you to hold fire on listing and get it ready for sale instead. As well as improving the physical appearance of your property ready for viewings, there’s also a lot of documentation you can gather, which will mean that it’s market and sales-ready when the time comes.

Useful things to know before coming to market include:

  • The property leasehold
  • Ground rent
  • Service charges
  • Terms of the lease
  • What services are connected to the property? Are they private or not?

Can agents show people around properties?

Agents should conduct virtual viewings in the first instance, to avoid too many viewers going round the same property. Virtual viewing uses technology to allow prospective buyers to see everything and ask questions while they’re unable to be there in person. We’ve developed a handy guide, which talks about some of the basics of a virtual viewing, to help you prepare. 

If you are still interested in the property following a virtual viewing, we can arrange viewings in-person and we do so following our Stay Safe procedures.

Are developers allowed to open show homes?

New build show homes are allowed to open but with restrictions in place which are:

  • Viewings must be by appointment only and only one household visiting one property at a time
  • Developers must clean the surfaces between viewings
  • Developers must ensure their sales team follow safer working guidance at all times

If I want a viewing to be carried out at my property, what safety precautions do the government advise that I take?

The government has issued guidance on viewings that take place in person. Viewings can be organised by appointment. The guidance for sellers or landlords is as follows:

  • All internal doors should be open before the viewing
  • Allow access to handwashing facilities and ideally separate towels/paper towels
  • Advise that you vacate the property whilst the viewing takes place to minimise contact with those not in your household
  • Agents are advised to accompany viewers to ensure avoidance of touching surfaces maintaining a 2-metre distance at all times
  • After the viewing, all surfaces such as door handles are cleaned, and towels that have been used for handwashing disposed of or washed

Who can leave their house to view a property?

As long as no one in either household is experiencing coronavirus symptoms or is self-isolating, property viewings can take place. If someone is experiencing symptoms or self-isolating, the viewing must be delayed. 

Have there been changes to mortgages?

The government instruction to lenders is to be as flexible as possible when it comes to mortgages and to speak to your broker or agent if you have concerns about how your mortgage might be impacted.

Certain lenders are currently moving away from mortgages with a larger loan-to-value ratio and focusing on supporting their existing borrowers during this period of uncertainty. Homeowners and landlords who already have a mortgage can apply for a payment holiday for up to six months to help alleviate the pressure of payments. Further information is readily available on the lender’s websites.

Can I make or receive an offer or a reservation?

Yes, government guidance is that you are free to make or accept an offer or reserve a property as normal. There is further guidance on things like inspections on the property you are purchasing, which must be within social distancing guidelines. Additionally, no-one can enter a property where a member of the household is showing symptoms of coronavirus or if anyone is self-isolating. 

What is happening with exchange?

Exchanges are still being encouraged to go ahead, with a focus on flexible but delayed completions during lockdown periods. The majority of the sales process can still be conducted while people are working from home, and any delays which you might experience are often typical of the sales process.

If you’re preparing to exchange, it’s important to keep communicating with your solicitor and estate agent regularly to try and exchange as smoothly as possible.

What is happening with completion?

Any lockdown scenario may mean that completion on a property is more difficult. The Government is currently advising buyers and sellers to be flexible and delay where possible during lockdown, but completion can still take place.

If you’re completing on a new build property, in most cases you should be able to proceed normally, while adhering to government guidelines.

Another concern is that completion dates will be impacted by the need to self-isolate for a member of the chain. In these cases, the most important thing is that if someone has symptoms, they should not be moving. Remember that issues with chain completion are normal and that most people are accommodating and happy to arrange a new completion date where possible.

If I have coronavirus or am self-isolating am I contractually committed to moving home?

The government have advised that anyone in the moving chain with an agreement in place should remain flexible for circumstances like these and you should not expect to move into a home where people are isolating due to symptoms. It is best to consult your legal adviser to ensure the contract you enter into has sufficient flexibility.

What happens if your lease is up during lockdown?

Speak to your landlord well in advance of the date where the lease is up. If they are unwilling to renew the lease, but you don’t feel comfortable moving during the virus, the best advice is to stay put and continue to pay your rent. Eviction can’t take place for three months and communicating early can help avoid problems.

Government advice is that unless moving is unavoidable, the best thing to do is delay. If you were planning on moving into a new rental property, the best idea is to speak to your letting agents and try to establish whether you feel safe to do so.

Things to consider include:

  • Whether the property has been empty
  • Has the property been sanitised?
  • Is moving going to put you or others at risk?

What is the guidance on removals?

Government advice states that this is possible as long as no-one in the household has symptoms or is self-isolating and removal firms are allowed to operate within the social distancing and safer working guidelines.

Government advice states that you should do as much of the packing yourself as possible plus cleaning of your belongings where possible. If you are planning to use a removal firm, get in contact well in advance of the move date. You will not be able to be within 2 metres of the movers and you need to ensure handwashing facilities are accessible, with all doors left open to minimise contact.  

Contact haart

If you are in the middle of trying to buy, rent or sell your property, contact haart for all the support you need. We’re still on a mission to get you moved, and all our estate agents are committed to helping you. Contact your local branch by phone, or arrange a video call with one of our agents.  

You can book a virtual valuation with us here, or if you want to find out about all of our measures in place have a look at our Stay Safe page.