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Can I move house during lockdown?

As we write the answer is yes, you definitely can move house during lockdown.  The government has repeatedly stated their desire for the property market to remain open and to let estate agents and removal companies continue to operate as they have been.

The only question mark is over how estate agents will work.  The ‘work from home’ edict could mean their offices have to be shut.  This would mean they will have to work remotely to arrange either socially distant or virtual viewings for people looking to move house during lockdown.

If you are planning on viewing a property in person it’s important to note you will need to adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Viewings have to be prearranged and by appointment only
  • You must be accompanied by an agent and if the property does not allow you to social distance you and your agent should wear a mask
  • You must wash your hands upon entering and leaving the home you’re viewing
  • You are advised to bring and use hand sanitiser and avoid touching any surfaces
  • The occupier should be out when you visit to minimise contact with other household
  • The occupier should give provide you with access to hand-washing facilities with separate towels while you’re in their home

Predictably the alternative – virtual viewings using platforms like Zoom and FaceTime – has grown in popularity over the last few months.  Leading estate agents including Rightmove, Foxtons and Savills have reported they now have thousands of live virtual listings and demand for them is increasing week on week.

At the same time several consumer groups have questioned whether they actually give buyers the complete ‘warts and all’ picture they need to make a final financial commitment.  While some agents say their videos will highlight potential areas of concern – i.e. heavy traffic, potential noise problems or planning issues – we would always suggest a virtual viewing is cross-referenced with the other online tools you have available and, more importantly, with a personal viewing.

The Property Ombudsman has echoed this need for caution. In April they issued written advice telling agents to provide their clients with the security of an ‘offer agreed subject to viewing’ notice until such time as they can visit and view the property themselves.

Construction sites will also be able to continue to uninterrupted to keep new developments on track.  And, should a new occupant require work to be done once they’ve moved in, they can still use a tradesperson in their home.

The government’s leniency is almost certainly an attempt to allow the residential property market to continue to thrive since it announced the so-called stamp duty holiday in July.  However, the spike in demand has taken its toll on buyers.

Many buyers have found their purchase process has been slow because of the pressures being put on solicitors, mortgage brokers and lenders, many of whom are still working at home themselves which is causing its own problems.

If you are planning to buy a house in the near future and have any concerns about how best to manage the process during lockdown, please email me at [email protected] or call me on 0208 515 6600.