13 May, 2020
Housing market unlocked: what it means for you
The lockdown is easing very slightly this week, and that includes the housing market. For hundreds of thousands of people whose plans to move house have been hold, things just got interesting.
The property market has been at a near-total standstill since March. The government released instructions telling people not to move house, whether they were buying or renting.
Viewings and valuations were banned, estate agents were closed, and mortgage lenders were pulling up the drawbridge.
From Wednesday 13th May, the government has released advice to say that we can proceed with caution, as long as everyone follows the new rules.
Estate agents, removals companies, conveyancers, surveyors, and other essential people involved the homebuying process have also returned to work while following social distancing guidelines.
Although restrictions are being eased, the mortgage market might take a little longer. Many providers shut up shop at the start of the crisis. Your broker or lender will be able to tell you more about what deals are available to you.
What you CAN do
If you're in the market to buy a place, you can now go to viewings, provided you follow social distancing. That means the seller will probably leave the property while you're looking around, and the estate agent should stay two metres away.
The estate agent and seller should be aware of the new rules and should be enforcing the guidance to keep you safe. This includes opening all the doors and windows, and cleaning all surfaces between viewings.
When you book viewings, the estate agent will be able to tell you what they're doing to follow the guidelines.
Government advice also states that while you're viewing properties you should avoid touching surfaces, wash your hands regularly, and bring your own hand sanitiser.
If possible, you should try and avoid using public transport when you travel to the viewing.
You can make an offer on a property as normal. However, you should be aware that there's a risk of delays if someone in the chain starts showing symptoms and needs to self-isolate.
Surveys and searches
Conveyancers and solicitors should be able to carry out searches online as normal, so the legal bit of the homebuying process shouldn't be affected.
Surveyors and other tradespeople can also go into the property as long as they and the seller both follow social distancing guidelines.
Everyone might need to be a bit more flexible with dates and arrangements for completing and moving. If someone gets ill, you might have to delay moving into your new home.
Removal companies are going back to work, and you should book your van as early as possible. You should do as much of your own packing as you can, and clean your boxes and bags before the removal people pick them up.
You can't offer them a cup of tea while they're loading your stuff into the van. It'll feel weird, but it's for the best.
It might also be a good idea to have your new home professionally cleaned before you move in, even if it's a new build.
What you CAN'T do
If you or anyone in your household has tested positive, is showing symptoms, or is self-isolating, you shouldn't go to viewings or move house.
If you're vulnerable or shielding, or live with someone who is, government advice says you should consider personal circumstances carefully before deciding to move.
No sellers or estate agents should be holding open viewings. You should make an appointment to view a property, and no one else should be there while you are.
And remember: no tea. Not during viewings, while moving house, or even after the removals guy has lugged your sofa through your new front door. Keep that kettle switched off.
Yeah, us too. This is new to us all. If you want the full rundown, you can read the full government advice on moving house here.
The future is still pretty uncertain, and lockdown restrictions could tighten up again in the future. Bear this in mind before you decide whether to dive back into buying a home.
If you have any other questions about buying a home or your financial plan generally during these strange times, you can get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.