Moving home during the Coronavirus pandemic

On 5th November the Government announced that home moves and other property transactions can continue to take place during lock down and local restrictions. Estate agents, removal firms, banks and law firms will remain open throughout.

For full details see  “Government confirms that the housing market will remain open during lock down”.

However, the process of searching for and moving into a new property is different because property agents, conveyancers and other professionals have modified how they work to reduce the risk from COVID-19.

These changes could include doing more online, such as offering virtual viewings; vacating your current property during viewings; and ensuring your property is thoroughly cleaned before someone else moves in.

When preparing to buy, sell or move home you can:

  • market your property and estate agents can visit in order to take photos/videos of your property. As usual, you can also start to bring together the documentation necessary to sell your property
  •  carry out initial property searches online; and only visit a property in person when you are seriously considering making an offer on it.
  • if you wish to buy a new-build property, continue to contact the developer, with whom you should be able to make an appointment to view the show home or visit the particular plot you are interested in purchasing.

Howells Solicitors’ reception remains open throughout the lock down and local restrictions, however we encourage telephone appointments wherever possible. Where client meetings need to take place, measures are in place to ensure appropriate social distancing and hygiene practices are adhered to.

All physical viewings where prospective buyers or renters will be entering the property should involve no more than 2 households inside the property at any one time. This includes any agent accompanying either party. Anyone in a support bubble with either household, however, will count as part of that household.

What does this mean for my property move or purchase which is scheduled whilst lock down or restrictions are in place?

You are free to complete your transaction. However, as mentioned above, you may find the process different :

  • Initial viewings should be done virtually wherever possible. Property agents should be able to help you with this.
  • Members of the public who are visiting an agent’s office or viewing a property should wear a suitable face covering as described in government guidance unless they are exempt from this requirement. The agent may require you to arrange an appointment before visiting the premises.
  • Where prospective buyers who are currently from separate households wish to view the property on the same occasion, we advise that one household leaves the property to allow the other to enter. This allows for both households to view the property and ensures social distancing.
  • Viewings should be arranged by appointment only and ‘open house’ viewings should not take place. When viewing properties in person, you should avoid touching surfaces wherever possible, wash your hands regularly and/or use hand sanitiser. If you need to be accompanied by small children, you should try to keep them from touching surfaces and ensure they wash their hands regularly.
  • If people are being shown around your property, you should open all internal doors and ensure surfaces, such as door handles, are cleaned after each viewing with standard household cleaning products.
  • We recommend that you vacate your property while viewings are taking place in order to minimise unnecessary contact.
  • Anyone involved in any aspect of the home-moving process should practice social distancing in line with public health advice.
  • Everyone involved in the moving process must follow social distancing to minimise the spread of COVID-19.

What if I have to self-isolate during my moving date?

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, however mild, or you have received a positive COVID-19 test result, you should immediately self-isolate at home for at least 10 days from when your symptoms started. You may also be required to self-isolate if you are entering or returning to the UK from abroad or have been contacted by NHS Test and Trace. Everyone should follow the latest requirements to quarantine upon return to the UK.

You should follow the latest guidance for households with possible or confirmed COVID-19 infection. If you are contractually committed to move home, you should seek to delay your move until all members of your household have come to the end of their self-isolation period. All parties involved in home buying and selling should prioritise agreeing amicable arrangements to change completion dates where someone in a chain or their family member is self-isolating or has tested positive for coronavirus.

What if I am classed as vulnerable?

Those who identify as clinically extremely vulnerable can move home, providing there are no local restrictions in place as described earlier in this guidance. People in this category should:

  • Only take part in property viewings if they are not showing symptoms of coronavirus.
  • Where possible, vacate their property when it is being shown to prospective buyers. Ensure all rooms are well ventilated, and clean surfaces before and after viewings, following the general principles of cleaning during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Let the agent and other parties involved in the move know that they are clinically vulnerable.
  • Carefully consider what physical contact they have with any party assisting with the home move and consider how they can either reduce this contact or appropriately protect themselves.
  • Seek advice from their GP should they have any immediate concerns around the time of any home move.
  • Follow general guidance for clinically extremely vulnerable people.

Advice for Moving Home

If you are about to enter into a legally binding contract, you should discuss the possible implications of COVID-19 with your legal professional and consider making contractual provisions to manage these risks. You should not expect to immediately be able to move into any home where people have COVID-19 or are self-isolating.

People outside your household or support bubble should not help with moving house unless absolutely necessary. If anyone involved becomes ill with COVID-19 during the moving process or has to self-isolate you should be flexible and be prepared to delay moving dates.

When moving between properties, you and those in your household should try to do as much of the packing yourself as you can. Where this is not possible, you should speak to removal firms in advance. There is further advice about this below. If you are particularly worried about the risk of infection, then speak to your landlord, estate agent or removers as they may be able to put extra precautionary measures in place.

For the full Government guidance on moving home see here: Government advice on home moving during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

Howells are open and here to help, continuing to serve our clients through this time and are ready to act on your cases immediately.

Sheffield: 0114 249 66 66

Barnsley: 0122 680 51 90

Rotherham: 0170 936 40 00

Or view our conveyancing information here.

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