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Everything you need to know about the government’s new measures for the property market

May 2020

Last week, the government announced its measures to help restart the property market after a period of deep freeze, following the UK’s measures taken to curb the spread of coronavirus. During this period, it has been estimated that over 373,000 property sales – with a total value of £82bn – were put on hold. 

Since 13 May 2020, show homes and estate agents’ offices may open, property viewings are  permitted, and removal companies and other essential services related to the sales and letting process have been allowed to resume operations. Whilst all of these services are subject to an ability to abide by social distancing measures (which largely remain in effect), it appears as though some sense of normality is gradually returning to the property market. 

At Lawrence Stephens, we have been closely monitoring these updates, and are working with our clients to support them throughout this continually evolving period. Below, we outline what you need to know about the government’s measures for the property market:

You can now view a property in person 

Following the government’s announcement of a countrywide lockdown on the 23rd March 2020, contracts were signed only in cases of absolute necessity, with property viewings taking place using video conferencing tools such as Skype or Zoom. 

From 13 May 2020, property transactions may resume, and viewings may now take place in person. Crucially, these viewings are subject to social distancing guidelines. This means that it’s likely a prospective buyer will first be required to view the property digitally, before they arrange a physical viewing. Upon this viewing, it’s up to estate agents, conveyancers, removal firms, and current and prospective buyers and tenants to ensure that these guidelines are followed so that the risk of spreading a virus is effectively mitigated. This could go as far as to mean a health declaration be presented on arrival, and temperatures taken. 

Buyers may view the property on multiple occasions, but it should be noted that all physical viewings are to be limited to members of the same household. Open house viewings are not permitted. 

You may now put your home on the market

If an individual wishes to put their home on the market, they may allow an estate agent into their home to value the property and take any necessary photographs, provided that members of the household remain outside of the house whilst this occurs. As would have been the case prior to the lockdown, the seller should also begin to collate the documentation needed to sell their property. 

You may accept any offers made 

Sellers are now free to accept any offers made on their property. However, it should be noted that delays are still likely to occur should an individual involved in the transaction be self-isolating or show symptoms of coronavirus. For this reason, it is advised that contracts and agreements include clauses where necessary that are made to be as flexible as possible, to account for this risk. 

At Lawrence Stephens, we have a team of experts on hand to review or amend any contracts or agreements. 

Legal representatives and surveyors may carry out necessary searches and surveys 

Legal representatives may carry out searches on your property online, to facilitate the progress of your transaction. It is recommended that you contact them to discuss the likely timescales.

Likewise, surveyors may carry out surveys of the property you wish to purchase and EPC assessors are also free to carry out surveys. Again, social distancing measures must be followed throughout this process, and surveys should not be undertaken on homes where an individual is self-isolating or showing symptoms of coronavirus. 

There should be room for flexibility when moving home 

Once contracts have been exchanged, it is still recommended that parties remain as flexible as possible with regard to move-in dates. This would account for delays incurred due to individuals self-isolating or displaying symptoms of coronavirus. 

If you have been asked to delay your move, please do not hesitate to get in touch with a member of our team using the details provided below. 

Mortgage lenders are making adjustments 

The government’s decision to impose a nationwide lockdown drastically limited mortgage lender’s ability to, or willingness to lend. This is in part due to uncertain, or fluctuating property values. 

As the market reopens, lenders across the country have been adjusting their pricing and updating their criterion to align with the new circumstances. Whilst it is yet to be seen how many applications are being made, it appears as though lenders are ready to kick-start new deals – repriced or otherwise. 

It goes without saying that with the arrival of these new measures come a number of logistical issues and concerns. As the sector adapts to new measures, and new ways of working, Lawrence Stephens remains on hand to provide our clients with expert and tailored legal advice. Should you wish to discuss any of the points stated above, please do not hesitate to contact me or any other member of the property team.