COVID-19: Residential Property and Conveyancing

31 March 2020

Amid the COVID-19 outbreak Wilsons is working hard to provide the most up to date advice to our clients on all matters.

Under new Government regulations, moving house is not banned. If you are in the process of buying or selling a property do not assume that it cannot go ahead. Matters are still proceeding and we are progressing transactions as far as we are able, although this may take a little bit longer than usual. Agents are still in contact with us remotely and ensuring that any completions that are able to take place can take place, particularly where properties are vacant. However, completion must be reasonably necessary and removal companies will be the main issue here.

If completion is delayed we would normally still encourage exchange because it gives everyone reassurance that completion will definitely go ahead. However, the clauses we are drafting to protect all parties remove an element of the certainty, so it may be better to wait until the lockdown is lifted and exchange then. Risk then is that prices will start to be renegotiated or people will simply get cold feet.

Some areas will need to come to a complete standstill, such as mortgage applications where there has not yet been a valuation and equity release completions where the solicitor must meet the client in person – but we will strive to keep matters moving forward wherever possible. 

Our recommendation is to stay patient, particularly if you are in a chain. The usual processes are likely to be slowed down, and other parties in the chain may be more financially cautious or elderly. Whilst a degree of nervousness is to be expected in the current situation, it may be better to stay within the chain you are in, as it would take longer to market the property again and may not be at the same price you managed to agree previously.

Real Life Examples:

A client is buying a property to rent out as a holiday home. She managed to re-negotiate the price last week but on the basis that he then quickly moved to exchange and completion. We managed to get a mortgage offer out within 48 hours which included applying to be on a lender’s panel and obtained exchange by the end of Friday.

Thankfully the property is vacant and our client is obviously not moving in. The two risks are therefore that the mortgage funds do not arrive in time for completion or that the client is not able to get his signatures witnessed. While the lenders are assuring us that it is business as normal (as long as they have enough notice of completion) and my client has assured me he can find someone to witness from a 2 meter distance, we have still included a clause in the contract to protect all parties and allow completion to be delayed if necessary.

Elsewhere, we had three completions take place last week (following lockdown announcement), and one was a chain of three (albeit where two of the properties we empty.)

Please see below the current Government guidance on conveyancing.

Government advice on home moving during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

We will update our statement in line with any changes made by the Government.

If you have any questions please don't hesitate to get in contact using the form below.

Back to news