The press has been awash with reports that the house moving market has closed down. The property market is undoubtedly contracting due to the lockdown restrictions. Many mortgage lenders have withdrawn new mortgage products from the market for the time being, presumably to enable them to deploy a reduced workforce onto existing offers. Estate agents have closed their doors but many of them have now utilised technology to enable them to conduct virtual viewings. Law firms have largely moved their workforces from offices to working at home – but there is still activity in the housing market.
It is not the case that property market is closed for business. The government has issued guidance in relation to house moves. The guidance states that there is no need to pull out of transactions but stresses the importance of following the social distancing guidance at all times. Where a property being moved into is vacant, the parties can continue with the transaction.
The government's advice suggests that if a transaction has already exchanged contracts and is legally binding, the parties should do all they can to amicably agree an alternative date to move at a time when it is likely that the stay-at-home measures will no longer be in place. The problem with this suggestion is the fact that it might be difficult to persuade everyone in a chain to change the date and there are significant legal consequences if a completion date is missed.
The government advice suggests that parties should avoid exchanging contracts until the stay-at-home measures are no longer in place although does not actually prohibit sellers and buyers entering into a contract. It is important for conveyancing clients to obtain specialist legal advice at this time to ensure that their interests are properly protected.
There are still steps that people wanting to move house can take in preparation and there are many conveyancing firms who are open for business and happy to take clients on at this difficult time.
To discuss this or any other property related matter, contact us.