Guide to buying or selling your home in the current situation
Moving house is stressful enough when the world is functioning ‘normally’. Moving house when the world has been turned upside down is another thing altogether. Recent guidance has signalled a desire by the Government to allow buyers and sellers to get on and move if they want. Especially with the temporary measure allowing homebuyers to not pay stamp duty on the first £500,000 of a property purchase price. This will be in effect until 31 March 2021, and will allow even those that have exchanged but not completed before 8 July 2020 to benefit.
While every transaction is different, it will generally take 2-3 months from the date a buyer is found to the buyer getting the keys, i.e. completion. Taking into account that lead-in time, there is a logic in sellers still trying to get their house sales tied up now, and we continue to be instructed on new deals. However, there are a number of practical issues for you to consider.
Photographing the property
If the property is not yet on the market, estate agents will have different approaches to visiting and taking photos. From our experience, if the property is vacant then estate agents will still be happy to visit and take photos for the purposes of marketing the property online and compiling a brochure. If the property is occupied, either by the seller or tenants, some agents may still be happy to take photos but we would suggest these to be in the minority.
Get ready to sell
Regardless of whether or not you put the property on the market at this stage, it is good to get a solicitor involved at the earliest stage. We can help identify any quirks / areas likely to prompt enquiry with the legal title that would be raised by a buyer during the sale process. Examples include: boundary disputes, covenant or access issues, solar panels, private water or private drainage. If those areas can be looked at ahead of a sale being agreed, that will save time in the long-run and reduce the risk of the sale falling through.
Off market database
All agents will have a database of interested buyers identifying the key areas and even roads of interest to them. Therefore if you are thinking about selling, speak with a local agent and ask if they have people on their database who are interested in your area. Even if no formal brochure can be prepared as yet, a buyer with their heart set on that area may well be happy to proceed. They may perhaps even ask you to take some photos to email to agent.
Physical viewings are no longer restricted, although there is detailed guidance about the conduct of those viewings I line with government regulations, for example no open house viewings are permitted and you should vacate the property while a viewing takes place as long as the seller and buyer are happy with that approach. We have seen many agents promoting virtual viewings online, and have been instructed ourselves by buyers who have agreed to proceed on that basis, i.e. without having seen the property in person.
Speaking with a number of local agents with whom we work closely, a common suggestion is for the agent to deliver the keys in person to the property once the seller’s solicitors have received the completion monies. This would be done at an appropriate distance. We would strongly recommend that all buyers and sellers speak with the estate agent to their proposed transaction to check the agents or seller will be available to deliver keys, be it in person or through a key safe.
Surveyors are allowed access to carry out a survey. This is always money well spent and there are no limits on the types of surveys permitted at this present time.
There are no legal restrictions preventing you from exchanging if all parties wish to do so. A key obstacle had been the unavailability of removal companies, but the majority of companies are now back up and running, and offering a full service (including home packing), so that hurdle no longer exists.
If the parties wish to have more than, say, two weeks between exchange and completion, it might be appropriate to include contract clauses allowing the completion date to be set back if either party contracts coronavirus before completion. This would be particularly relevant where one of the parties (or a family member living at the property) is within a certain risk category for example, underlying health conditions.
How can Tozers help?
As guidance is always updating get the latest advice on our website, or contact our dedicated residential property team who will be happy to help. Visit https://www.tozers.co.uk for more info.