Early in January the Prime Minister addressed the nation once again, instructing people to “stay at home”. This mirrored his announcement at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic back in March.
Unlike during the first lockdown, buying and selling property have now been deemed essential activities which can continue during this lockdown. They will of course be subject to social distancing, wearing a face covering and other government guidance.
Can all the necessary bodies still help with buying / selling and moving house?
Estate and letting agents and removals firms can continue to work, but people outside your household or support bubble should not help with moving to a new house unless absolutely necessary.
If you are looking to move, you can also continue going to property viewings. Whilst, with some selling agents, virtual viewings online are available, our advice is not to purchase a property purely as a result of a virtual inspection and we always recommend you obtain at least a Home Buyer’s Survey on the property, not just rely on the lender’s valuation.
Communication is key
Whilst it’s positive news that we are still able to buy and sell, the fast-rising number of COVID-19 cases in England now appear to pose more of a risk to moving home than the second lockdown.
With this in mind, the most important thing is that you follow the guidance to help everyone stay safe, and consider contacting others involved in the process, to find out whether they anticipate any problems. It is important that everyone involved in the process are transparent with one another, to ensure that the process of buying and selling runs as smoothly as possible.
Stamp Duty Land Tax
As some of you may be aware, the Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) holiday in England is lasting until March 2021. More than 40,000 people have signed a petition calling for the stamp duty holiday to be extended for six months after this date. The Government responded in December 2020 after the votes surpassed 10,000:
“The SDLT holiday was designed to be a temporary relief to stimulate market activity and support jobs that rely on the property market. The Government does not plan to extend this temporary relief.”
At 100,000 signatures, the petition to extend the stamp duty holiday will be considered for debate in Parliament. Whilst it is uncertain what decision the Government will make; we urge you again to not rush into any hasty decisions no matter how excited you may be.
The purchase of a home or moving home is likely to be the biggest investment you will ever make in your life. Your priority must be to keep you and your family safe at this time.
Our Morecrofts property team has continued to work through lockdown, most of the time remotely from home. We have been able adapt quickly to a new way of working and can deal with all client needs through our case management system.
In the course of a conveyancing transaction there are many other bodies we deal with who supply us with information. Many of these suppliers are still working on a reduced staffing level and as a result of this the information takes longer to obtain, subsequently delaying the transaction. Therefore on matters we are currently dealing with or on new instructions received, there is no guarantee the matter can be completed before the end of March.
The government advice
The latest government advice as of the 7th January 2021 is as follows;
- Initial viewings should be done virtually wherever possible. Property agents should be able to help you with this although as stated above, do not rely solely on a virtual viewing.
- Members of the public who are visiting an agent’s office or viewing a property should wear a suitable face covering as described in government guidance unless they are exempt from this requirement. This should be confirmed with the agent before arrival. Anyone with concerns should contact the agent in advance of their visit to discuss appropriate measures. The agent may require you to arrange an appointment before visiting the premises.
- Viewings should be arranged by appointment only and ‘open house’ viewings should not take place. When viewing properties in person, you should avoid touching surfaces wherever possible, wash your hands regularly and/or use hand sanitiser. If you need to be accompanied by small children, you should try to keep them from touching surfaces and ensure they wash their hands regularly.
- Hotels, hostels and other such public accommodation can be used by people while moving home or who are unable to return to their main residence There is no guarantee a particular hotel will be open to provide this service, so do check in advance. You must still ensure you stay only within your household and/or support bubble.
- Second homes and other private accommodation can be used by people while moving home or who are unable to return to their main residence. You must still ensure you stay only within your household and/or support bubble.
- If people are being shown around your home, you should open all internal doors and ensure surfaces, such as door handles, are cleaned after each viewing with standard household cleaning products.
- We recommend that you vacate your property while viewings are taking place in order to minimise unnecessary contact.
- Anyone involved in any aspect of the home-moving process should practice social distancing in line with public health advice.
- When moving between properties, you and those in your household should try to do as much of the packing yourself as you can. Where this is not possible, you should speak to removal firms in advance. There is further advice about this below.
- If you are particularly worried about the risk of infection, then speak to your landlord, estate agent or removers as they may be able to put extra precautionary measures in place.
For full government guidance on buying and selling a home in the current pandemic, visit their advice page here.