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Government urges people to delay moving house in guide

Halifax House Price Index

The government has told buyers and renters that they should delay moving to a new house if possible, in a guide published yesterday.

Estate agents, conveyancers and surveyors have also been given guidance, which details how they need to support people who want to buy or sell during this period.

While the public have been told there is no need to pull out of transactions altogether, they need to stay home and away from others at all times.

Where the property being moved into is vacant, the transaction can continue. However, where the home is occupied people are encouraged to agree on alternative dates to move when stay-at-home measures against coronavirus are no longer active.

The police’s emergency lockdown powers to curb coronavirus have been given an exemption for ‘critical home moves’ if no new date can be agreed.

If sellers haven’t put their home on the market yet, the government warned that people can’t actively market their homes in the usual way, by inviting potential buyers or advisers into their home.

Simon Davis, president of the Law Society, said: “We welcome the government’s advice which provides much needed clarity around some of the issues home buyers and sellers are facing.

“Those who have not exchanged contracts would be well advised to wait and those who have exchanged contracts are encouraged to take a practical view and extend the contractual completion date if this can be agreed – and if the risks are clearly understood by both buyers and sellers.

“Our members will now be talking to their clients to try to find workable alternatives to completion – in situations where there may be practical barriers whilst social distancing requirements are in place.

“They will be aiming to find pragmatic solutions in situations where contracts have been exchanged but the purchase is not yet completed.

“There remain further issues that require consideration, and we will continue to liaise with government and update our own advice to members accordingly.”

Estate agents have been advised to work with their clients and other agents to find new moving dates.

They shouldn’t open branches to the public or visit people’s homes to carry out appraisals, though employees can still work from home.

The government said agents should continue to progress sales where possible, though they should advise clients to be patient and not to exchange unless the contracts have explicit terms to manage the timing risks presented by the virus.

Conveyancers should support the sales of unoccupied properties, though with occupied properties they should support clients in changing the completion date.

They should advise their clients who are ready to move not to exchange contracts on an occupied property unless they have made explicit provision for the risks presented by the virus.

Both agents and conveyancers need to support those showing symptoms or self-isolating.

Surveyors should not carry out non-urgent surveys in homes where people are living, and no inspections should take place if any person in the property is showing symptoms, self-isolating or being shielded.

Some work can be completed online, while urgent surveys can be carried out on empty properties, where the occupants are out of the property, or following guidance to stay at home and away from others.