Neil Riley, head of our residential conveyancing team, explains how the Coronavirus lockdown is affecting house sales and what property experts are doing to try and keep you moving…
It’s not yet clear what will happen to the property market whilst we are obliged to stay at home. It could grind to a complete halt, but there are estate agents and solicitors working from home, who are still progressing matters as far as possible. Indeed, here at Taylor&Emmet, we are operating relatively normally from dining rooms and kitchens across the county!
Understandably, those of you with ongoing property transactions will have many questions about the situation you find yourself in, so I thought I’d do my best to answer as many as I can.
How will you keep my house sale progressing when you’re not in the office?
Everyone at Taylor&Emmet has been working incredibly hard to manage the restrictions imposed upon us and minimise the impact on residential conveyancing transactions.
Whilst we have physically closed our offices, we are equipped to work from home and will continue to deal with your property sales and purchases. You can contact the expert handling your matter via their normal direct dial number or by email.
We remain committed to progressing transactions up to and including exchange of contracts and completion, where the circumstances permit.
What are the current restrictions doing to transaction times?
We understand you are worried about how the situation will affect the timing of your move. We are trying to progress transactions as normal, but we do anticipate some disruption to the process of exchange and completion.
Each transaction is unique and it isn’t possible to adopt a ‘one size fits all’ approach, so we are advising clients on a case-by-case basis.
Will we be able to complete our house purchase during the current situation?
In some circumstances, it will be possible for transactions to progress to completion, but mortgage lenders may require additional notice to draw down funds or provide redemption statements.
Likewise, you will probably need more time to make appropriate arrangements too, so it may be impossible to exchange contracts or agree a completion date at short notice.
The government has issued some helpful advice about moving home during the Coronavirus outbreak. For more information, visit: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/government-advice-on-home-moving-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak
Moving home hasn’t been prohibited, but we are being advised against all but critical completions, where a new date cannot be agreed. If your move takes place, everyone involved must follow the guidance on social distancing and stay at home measures if they have symptoms, are self-isolating or shielding from Coronavirus.
If we do complete, how will we manage the practical side of the move?
Clearly, there are a number of considerations that may impact upon your ability to move home at the moment. For example, securing removal services is likely to cause significant difficulties.
If your transaction doesn’t require the help of professional removals, it may be possible to complete. This is most likely to include the sale of empty property, where buyers do not need to take possession immediately and critical situations where both parties are able to facilitate the process themselves.
If you are willing and able to move, we would only advise doing so with a simultaneous exchange and completion. Ideally, contracts are exchanged at least a week before the completion date, to give you some certainty about the arrangements. However, when no one knows what will happen from one day to the next, it would be inappropriate for us commit you to something legally binding that far ahead. It is entirely possible current restrictions may be tightened further, making it even more difficult to move, or a healthy buyer/seller at the point of exchange could fall ill, potentially putting them in breach of contract if they were unable to complete on the agreed date.
By exchanging contracts simultaneously with the completion, we can make sure funds are in place and everyone is fit and well. Proceeding on this basis isn’t without risk, but it minimises the potential liability for both parties.
Could we exchange contracts, but delay completion until all this is over? It would at least give me some certainty that my buyers are committed.
There has been some talk about progressing transactions to exchange and delaying completion until the current crisis is over. This might seem like a sensible solution, but it is impossible to say when life will return to normal.
Evidence is already emerging that mortgage companies are changing their lending policies and there is a risk property values could be affected adversely by a prolonged lockdown. If your buyers are dependent on third party finance, they will need to give careful consideration to their employment status and job security, as a mortgage offer could be withdrawn if their eligibility changes.
Our aim is to proceed matters as far as possible, until the current restrictions are lifted. We remain committed to working with estate agents and other professional partners to facilitate exchange and completion as quickly as possible, whilst ensuring you receive legal advice that is appropriate to your circumstances.
For now, we will continue to monitor the situation and review our advice in line with any updates from the government. Like everyone, we want normal service to resume as soon as it is safe to do so. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to contact the expert dealing with your transaction with any questions, or call 0114 218 4000.