How Will the New COVID-19 Rules Affect Your House Move
It is a sad fact that the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are still rolling out with the number of cases in the UK, France, Germany and many other countries now increasing again every day. Thankfully, the number of people being hospitalised has dropped dramatically and the number of fatalities is also much reduced. A second spike in the number of new cases has always been predicted for the autumn but the speed with which it is now re-occurring has taken everyone by surprise. Dealing with the threat of COVID is the new ‘normal’ and is now impacting every aspect of our daily lives – even house buying.
Since 24 September, there have been new measures implemented in England (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland each have their own set of rules) to try and stop the spread of COVID-19, but none of these rules apply specifically to anyone house hunting. Despite the difficulties presented by the pandemic, house viewing are still taking place as many potential buyers are keen to take advantage of the stamp duty holiday which was announced by the Chancellor and is in place until 31 March 2021.
Although there have been a number of changes implemented to minimise the impact of COVID-19, the biggest impact that could happen is that a local lockdown is enforced, so it is sensible to listen to daily news updates covering the areas where you live and are house viewing. It is the ‘Big Three’ rules that remain really important in all current situations – including house viewing: wash your hands regularly and thoroughly and use anti-bacterial gel, wear a mask and socially distance (especially when in a confined space) at a least distance of two metres whenever possible.
House buying in the ‘new normal’ definitely presents other challenges and our guidelines will hopefully minimise risks at every stage.
Luckily, many of the properties on the market offer a 360º virtual viewing online, which even without the restrictions presented by COVID-19, make sense. From this comfort of your home, glass of wine in hand, you can view a number of properties quickly and effectively, to be able to draw up a short list.
This really is the best way to view houses as you do not have to waste time driving and viewing. You can simply take a virtual tour and decide whether you like what you see and it suits your needs, making a physical viewing the second stage in the process.
Viewings are strictly by appointment at present to ensure that you are the only person/people visiting at a given time. Many companies are advising house sellers to leave the property when a viewing begins and to use anti-bacterial spray to thoroughly clean after the viewing. House owners are also being requested to provide hand washing facilities with paper towels that can be disposed of safely.
The golden rules for prospective buyers for each viewing are the same:
- Wear a mask throughout your visit.
- Use anti-bacterial gel on your hands when you enter and leave the building.
- Do not touch any surfaces during your visit. Property owners are recommended to have all internal doors open so that no one has to touch any door handles.
When You Have Decided To Buy
The normal purchase procedure has not changed at all, although you may find that the conveyancing stage is slower than usual. The reason for this is that many solicitors’ practices are working with a reduced number of staff. A backlog of work has also accumulated during recent months, so many are on ‘catch up’.
Before you sign the contract and finalise moving details, it is well worth asking about the potential impact of COVID-19 if someone in your family- or the vendor’s family – contracts COVID-19 as this could delay things by a couple of weeks. It is good to ask whether this will have an impact and also whether an additional clause can be added to the contract to cover this potential problem.
On the Move
Luckily, removal companies are able to work well in the current difficult situation. Packing will take longer, and customers are recommended to pack their possessions rather than the removal company. It is a good idea to spray all items with anti-bacterial spray or wipes, before handing them over to be packed or carried to the removal lorry.
Try and maintain your social distance from the packers at all times and if this is not possible, wear a face mask. Regularly wash your hands and use anti-bacterial gel and provide facilities for the removal team to do the same. Provide paper hand towels which can be disposed of safely. Unfortunately, much as you would love to, you cannot offer food or mugs of tea to the removal team.
Once you have a removal date in mind, contact your chosen company quickly to give them maximum notice as companies are very busy at present.
The government has provided plenty of useful information about moving that covers private sales and renters moving from and to both private and social housing – READ MORE HERE.
If you are hoping to move and manage to find the ‘house of your dreams’ you may wonder whether you should put in an offer. It is always a good idea to try striking a good deal for a property, but you may not be too successful as it is currently a ‘sellers’ market’. Lockdown has given everyone plenty of time at home in which to evaluate their property and those with good Wi-Fi, generously sized bedrooms a home office area and good sized garden are much sought after and are fetching good prices.