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16 June 2020

House sales and coronavirus Q&A

Michael Fahy and Donna Williams answers questions on the effect the coronavirus pandemic has had on house sales and what we can expect the ‘new normal’ to be post lockdown for the property market.

House sales in England and Wales were temporarily suspended during the coronavirus lockdown; The Guardian reported in April that almost 400,000 property sales were put on hold as a result of the housing marketing lockdown. However, as the property market restarts it recovery post lockdown our property specialists look at what measures must be taken to adhere to social distancing, whether  the legal  process will differ and top tips and advice we can give  our clients when buying and selling a property in our House sales and coronavirus Q&A.

Q1. How can someone contact a solicitor during the coronavirus pandemic? 

Contacting a Solicitor through this pandemic is, essentially, as before, we all have direct contact numbers and all our clients have adjusted really well in communication through email and telephone.  We have also offered video and Zoom calls so that clients can have a face to face meeting.  Following new Government guidelines and social distancing we have started to introduce face to face meetings by prior appointment.

We have active company social media accounts with direct messaging functions and a live chat facility on our website so clients can also contact us through a number of channels for convenience and experience real time conversations.

Q2. With consideration of the current circumstances surrounding coronavirus, how does the house buying and selling process now differ?

The legal process is no different to what it has been previously, although we are all adjusting to slightly different forms of communication.  Mortgage lenders have extended some of their mortgage offers and we are still able to order searches on behalf of our clients.  The turnaround time is often increased due to parties within the chain shielding or circumstances with removal companies.  These measures have now been relaxed, however clients remain sensible, observe the social distancing guidelines and stay alert whilst viewing properties and moving during the pandemic.

It is encouraging to see that the property market has resumed with a flurry of activity since lockdown.

Q3. What can someone do if their house purchase or sale is delayed due to coronavirus? 

The government guidelines did previously confirm that we should delay moving house while emergency measures are in place fighting coronavirus.  However as long social distancing guidelines are followed you can now proceed to complete.

We have completed various transactions through this pandemic.  If exchange has already occurred there is currently nothing to prevent you from completing.

However if someone within the chain is self isolating or shielding then all parties are to agree another completion date, clients are encouraged to be as flexible as possible and take advice from the legal teams within the chain.

Q4. What top tips would you give to someone looking to buy or sell a house during the coronavirus pandemic?

 Observe government guidelines on social distancing when viewing a property do not touch surfaces and remember to wash hands and use hand sanitiser on returning home. Estate Agents are offering viewing services via virtual tours, so you only have to view the property in person if you are intending to buy.

If you are looking to buy or sell, we always recommend getting paper work and financials in place in the first instance, this will put you in a good position when offering on a property and can speed up some of the initial work.

We would also reassure clients about media headlines in relation to a ‘price crash’ or similar.  The property market does dip during periods of uncertainty but always makes a full recovery.

If you are looking to sell then now is the perfect time to make house improvements or even a spruce up ready for the open market.

Q5. Do you think the process of buying or selling a property will be impacted by coronavirus in the long term?

We are all wondering what the ‘new normal’ will be within the property market and the impact coronavirus will have.  It’s possible that clients will be more cautious during the process and delays are inevitable as we continue to navigate covid-19 restrictions as a result of illness or self-isolating.

However the property market will always continue as people move on and there will be first time buyers looking to come on the property ladder.

If you would like to take legal advice regarding buying and selling your home or would like to discuss any of the points raised in our house sales and coronavirus Q&A our specialist property team will be able to assist, please email realestate@steeleslaw.co.uk  or by calling 01603 598000 and a member of the team will be happy to contact you.

 *The information provided in this article is designed to provide useful information on the subject, not to provide specific legal advice.

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