Buyers, sellers, estate agents and new homes developers have been given new advice from the government about moving home while the U.K. is in lockdown to fight the coronavirus outbreak.

Buyers who are due to move into an empty property are being advised to go ahead, but others have been told to delay their transaction. The government stressed that while there was no need to pull out of a purchase, people must currently stay at home to help prevent coronavirus from spreading.

It has called on everyone involved in home moving to adapt and be flexible.

Can I still move home?

If the property you are moving into is empty, you are being advised to continue with your transaction. But, if your new home is currently occupied, the government is asking everyone involved in the transaction to do everything they can to agree an alternative date to move when the current social distancing measures are no longer in place.

The government has granted new emergency enforcement powers to the police to respond to Covid-19, but there is an exemption for 'critical' home moves when a new date cannot be agreed. Even so, if someone in the chain has symptoms of the virus or is self-isolating, the move should be put on hold.

What does it mean if you're buying?

You should only consider going ahead with your move in the immediate term if you have already exchanged contracts. If you have not yet exchanged contracts, the government are advising you to delay doing so.

Banks and building societies have agreed to extend mortgage offers for up to an additional three months to enable customers to move at a later date without losing the deal they had lined up.

If your circumstances change during this period or the terms of the house purchase alter significantly, meaning that continuing with the mortgage would put you into financial hardship, lenders have pledged to work with you to manage your finances as a matter of urgency.

What does it mean if you are selling?

Putting your property on the market will be more challenging than usual, as you are not allowed to have visitors to your home. As a result, you will not be able to have estate agents come to take photos or carry out a physical market appraisal, while Energy Performance Certificate assessors are also not allowed to visit you.

If your home is already on the market, you can continue to advertise it for sale, but people cannot come to physically view your property. Importantly, you are still allowed to accept offers on your property during the current period. In fact, the number of sales agreed between March 16 and March 22 was only 4% lower than a year earlier.

Can I pull out, if I am partway through buying a new home?

Your offer for a property becomes legally binding once the exchange of contracts has taken place. At this point, an exchange deposit is also paid, typically of around 10% of the property’s value.

While you could still withdraw your offer for a property after exchanging contracts, you would lose your 10% deposit, and you could be potentially be left open to legal action from the seller for additional compensation

The above does not apply to Scotland, which has a different system for property purchases.

Top 3 takeaways

1. Homebuyers and renters have been urged to put moving plans on hold while the UK is in lockdown to fight the COVID-19.

2. Buyers who are due to move into an empty property are allowed to go ahead, but others have been told to delay their transaction.

3. Banks and building societies have agreed to extend mortgage offers where completions have to be delayed to priorities safety.

Read more about Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance and what Peabody are doing to help.

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