Published: 27/03/2020

With the vast majority of the country on lockdown due to the escalating crisis, a lot of us are feeling worried. To help buyers and sellers at this time of uncertainty, we have compiled some practical tips and advice about what to expect at all stages of the home move process.

Preparing to Sell

You're probably now facing a period of time at home which you weren't expecting. Hardware stores are currently on the Government's list of retail outlets that are permitted to remain open, so if you're planning to put your home on the market when the lockdown is over, use this time to tackle all those DIY jobs you've been putting off, such as decorating and gardening to make sure your property is looking pristine.

Declutter the loft, garage and outbuildings; clean and box up everything you want to take with you. You will need to store the items you no longer need until charity shops and recycling centres reopen.

House Hunting

Do as much online research as possible, so you have a clear path forward for when the lockdown is over. You'll have more time on your hands so go onto the likes of OnTheMarket and Zoopla and look at what's for sale. Read the Ofsted reports of schools, check transport links and Google Streetview local facilities such as high streets, parks and gardens.

Don't wait to begin conversations with agents. Talk to them on the phone now to let them know what you're looking for, they'll be able to give you a pretty good idea of what properties are going to hit the market when lockdown is over. This can give you the edge, getting in there early.

If you find a property you're interested in online, speak to the agent as some have adapted rapidly to video viewings in the last few weeks, enabling buyers to undertake virtual walk-throughs of every room.

Carry out video consultations with agents through WhatsApp, Skype and Facetime.

Securing a Mortgage

It's more important than ever to ensure your financial affairs are in order and that you secure a mortgage offer in principle before you begin house hunting. Be aware there could be delays to new loan applications as lenders focus on delivering payment holidays for existing borrowers.

Be prepared to provide evidence of job security, something banks will be checking even more closely than usual.

If you already have a mortgage offer in place, speak to your lender to check that the offer is still valid and that the level of borrowing you're taking on remains manageable if your job situation has changed.

Managing Legals

If you have not yet exchanged, hold off for now. Spend this period of time ensuring that all queries have been answered and as much of the process has been completed as possible, so you're ready to press the button and exchange as soon as the lockdown is lifted.

If you have already exchanged and are due to complete within the next three weeks, speak to your solicitor as soon as possible to try and agree on a new completion date beyond the lockdown period with all other parties.

If you have already exchanged with a completion date beyond the next three weeks, monitor the situation closely. Ask your solicitor to begin conversations with other parties - you may need to act quickly to agree on a new date if the lockdown period is extended.

There will be delays to searches as Local Authority offices go into lockdown and cannot physically carry them out. If searches on your purchase have not yet been completed, you may have to wait until lockdown restrictions are lifted.

Arranging a Survey

It will no longer be possible for a surveyor to carry out a survey on a property as this is considered non-essential activity. Buyers will need to wait for restrictions on movement to be lifted, but you can still continue with the rest of the process, this element will simply take place towards the end rather than the beginning.

Moving Day

The British Association of Removers has issued guidance to its members to postpone all moves during the lockdown period, except those which are already underway.

While the vast majority of removals will now be delayed, movers can still get quotes and choose a removal firm in advance of their move.

Surveys can be carried out over Facetime in order to provide removals quotes, which will take a little longer than an in-person visit.

Never before has it been so important to seek professional advice from your agent. If you have any queries or need bespoke advice then feel free to contact us for a consultation and we'd be delighted to help you through this difficult but manageable time.