The housing market in England is now open for business, albeit with a new way of doing things.
“This is obviously excellent news for the property industry as well as all those keen to get moving. Safety will of course remain paramount, but things should at least start to be reinvigorated. The Covid-19 Secure Guidelines outline how the market is expected to operate in terms of the practicalities of viewings etc.” – Phil Spencer
When It Is Not Appropriate To Move
Moving home is not appropriate whilst you pose a direct risk of transmitting coronavirus.
People who have coronavirus or are self-isolating with their family member should not leave their home to either move home, or view property.
A New Normal
While you are free to move home, the process of finding and moving is going to be very different.
We all need to adapt to a ‘new normal’ when viewing a property to prevent the risk of coronavirus spreading further. It is vital that everyone stays alert and safe.
Putting Your Home on The Market
Agents have been advised that where possible paperwork should be signed electronically and when not possible paperwork should be sent in the post. If an agents office is open then agents have been advised this should be done by appointment only.
The Property Viewing Guidance for the Industry
Initial viewings are encouraged virtually wherever this is possible. A lot of estate agents have already adopted this method, so ask for a virtual viewing in the first instance.
Physical viewings can take place by appointment only, but open house viewings are not permitted.
You should make your own way to a viewing. If you will be accompanied by an estate agent then you should meet them at the property.
The number of people who go on a property viewing must be limited to that household only. For example; if you are viewing as a couple but you live in seperate households then you will be asked to book seperate viewings.
The agent will ask you a series of health questions before a viewing. They are required to ensure the occupier of the property has not had or has no COVID-19 symptoms and is not shielding or clinically vulnerable. It is their social responsibility to keep themselves and everyone in the process safe. Likewise, it is important that everyone cooperates and is honest about their health.
The industry guidance states that only one professional and up to two other adults should attend viewings. If unavoidable to take small children on a viewing, it is important they do not touch anything.
Whenever possible, an agent should accompany a buyer on a viewing. However, when not possible, everyone must all agree to follow recommendations set out on the ‘Consumer Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance on safe home moving’.
Everyone’s health and safety is of paramount importance right now. It is important that everyone adhers to current guidance relating to health and safety and PPE
Viewing a Property
- If someone is viewing your home you will be requested to leave to minimise contact. For example, stand outside, make your shopping trip or take a stroll.
- Social distancing guidelines must be followed during all viewings.
- Everyone must wash their hands and avoid touching surfaces and take their own hand sanitiser.
- Where practical, professionals and applicants should visit the property using their own transport.
- The agent must provide everyone with as much information as possible about the viewing in advance.
- The ‘Consumer Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance on safe home moving’ should be shared prior to your visit – or you can familiarise yourself with it here.
- Viewings will be by appointment only.
- To minimise the need to touch anything, homeowners will be requested to leave open all internal doors and to allow access to handwashing facilities, ideally with separate towels.
- After each viewing, homeowners will be asked to ensure surfaces are cleaned with standard household cleaning products.
- The estate agent will need to confirm cleaning before subsequent viewings can take place.
If you need to do a subsequent viewing, for example with a tradesperson to quote for work, you will be allowed, while continuing to adhere to social distancing guidelines and industry guidance.
How Long Can a Viewing Take?
It has been suggested that property viewings take no more than 15 minutes depending on the size of the property and that there is a sufficient gap between each one. Time needs to be allowed for surface cleaning ahead of a subsequent viewing.
If you are a home owner selling your property you should naturally expect less viewings in one day.
If you are a potential buyer on a viewing, it is important that you are aware of the suggested time period to view but don’t feel rushed. Equally don’t spend longer in the property than necessary. If you have any questions for the agent discuss them once outside or later on over the phone.
To ensure you stay focused and don’t miss anything important on a viewing, download our free ‘property viewing checklist’ – just sign up (or log-in) to access yours now.
Negotiating and Offers
You can continue to make an offer on a property and proceed through the conveyancing process.
Anyone assessing a property for a valuation, survey, assessment of energy performance, or for any other purpose, will ask many questions prior to their visit. This is in the interest of minimising time spent in a property.
The advice is that both parties should be aware that there is a greater risk that parties may need to delay their move because someone is showing symptoms of coronavirus or self-isolating.
Where needed your legal adviser should advise you and help make sure that any contracts or agreements are as flexible as possible to accommodate this risk.
Any subsequent visits to the property must follow the viewings guidelines above.
Property Searches and Surveys
Your solicitor can carry out online searches to keep the transaction moving. Be sure you are clear on timescales with them.
A surveyor can undertake surveys of the property you wish to purchase. They must follow their own professional guidelines to ensure their safety and the safety of the household.
During a property survey, surveyors will need access to all relevant parts of the property. You should make efforts to minimise contact with them, for example, staying in another room or stepping outside.
Exchanging Contracts and Completion
Government advice encourages all parties to be as flexible as possible.
If someone falls ill with coronavirus or is required to self-isolate then there will be a requirement to delay moves.
They stipulate that you should not expect to move into any home where people are ill or self-isolating. Your legal adviser should help ensure that any contract you enter into has sufficient flexibility to allow for delays.
Removal companies are also now operational but are also making adjustments to usual procedures so home moves happen safely.
Removal services offering packing services will be limited for now. However, boxes and packing equipment can still be supplied.
A ‘deep clean’ is recommended when moving in and out of a property. Agree with your solicitor whether you need to do a deep clean on your own home when it is empty, and also whether you need to do this in your new home before you move in.
- Self-pack miscellaneous and non-breakable items wherever possible.
- Clean your belongings, before they are handled by others, including removal firms.
- Packing by the remover is currently limited to breakable items.
- Ideally, leave the property while the removers are working.
- Clean down hard surfaces with warm soapy water, then disinfect these surfaces with household disinfectant.
- Keep windows open to allow ventilation.
- Dismantle your own furniture for packing.
- Re-assemble furniture in your new home wherever possible.
- Co-ordinate your move with anyone living in the property so they have time to move out before you / your removers arrive.
- If possible, allow 72 hours between a householder moving out and a new one moving in. This may be more likely to be possible when renting.
- Wash your hands regularly, use paper towels to dry them and/or your own hand sanitiser
- Keys handed over need to be sanitised by using hand sanitisers, or via disinfectant wipes.
This is all new protocol for us all and we fully expect guidance and process to change over time and will be keeping you fully updated.
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