Buying and selling homes during this stay-at-home period 
 
Given the situation in the UK with regard to the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19), we urge parties involved in home moving to adapt and be flexible to alter their usual processes. 
 
There is no need to pull out of transactions, but we all need to ensure we are following guidance to stay at home and away from others at all times, including the specific measures for those who are presenting symptoms, self-isolating or shielding. Prioritising the health of individuals and the public must be the priority. 
 
Where the property being moved into is vacant, then you can continue with this transaction although you should follow the guidance in this document on home removals. 
 
Where the property is currently occupied, we encourage all parties to do all they can to amicably agree alternative dates to move, for a time when it is likely that stay-at-home measures against coronavirus (COVID-19) will no longer be in place. 
 
In the new emergency enforcement powers that the police have been given to respond to coronavirus, there is an exemption for critical home moves, in the event that a new date is unable to be agreed. 
 
Recognising parties will need to alter common practice, we have sought to ease this process for all involved by: 
 
1: Issuing this guidance, developed with Public Health England, to home buyers and those involved in the selling and moving process. 
2: Agreeing with banks that mortgage offers should be extended where delay to completions takes place in order to prioritise safety. 
3: Working with conveyancers to develop a standard legal process for moving completion dates. 
 
Advice to the public 
 
What does this mean for my property move which is scheduled whilst the stay-at-home measures to fight coronavirus (COIVD-19) apply? 
 
Home buyers and renters should, where possible, delay moving to a new house while measures are in place to fight coronavirus (COVID-19). 
 
Our advice is that if you have already exchanged contracts and the property is currently occupied then all parties should work together to agree a delay or another way to resolve this matter. 
 
If moving is unavoidable for contractual reasons and the parties are unable to reach an agreement to delay, people must follow advice on staying away from others to minimise the spread of the virus. 
 
In line with government’s advice, anyone with symptoms, self-isolating or shielding from the virus, should follow medical advice which will mean not moving house for the time being, if at all possible. All parties should prioritise agreeing amicable arrangements to change move dates for individuals in this group, or where someone in a chain is in this group. 
 
What if an extension goes beyond the terms of a mortgage agreement? 
 
UK Finance have today confirmed that, to support customers who have already exchanged contracts for house purchases and set dates for completion, all mortgage lenders are working to find ways to enable customers who have exchanged contracts to extend their mortgage offer for up to 3 months to enable them to move at a later date. 
 
If a customer’s circumstances change during this 3 month period or the terms of the house purchase change significantly and continuing with the mortgage would cause house buyers to face financial hardship, lenders will work with customers to help them manage their finances as a matter of urgency. 
 
If your home is not yet on the market 
 
Getting your home onto the market may be more challenging than usual in this period. There should be no visitors to your home. 
 
You can speak to estate agents over the phone and they will be able to give you general advice about the local property market and handle certain matters remotely but they will not be able to start actively marketing your home in the usual manner. 
 
If you are thinking about selling, you can use this time to start gathering together all of the information you will need to provide to potential purchasers. 
 
Advice for people to stay at home and away from others means you should not invite unnecessary visitors into your home, including: property agents to carry out a market appraisal or take internal photographs prior to marketing your home; and Energy Performance Certificate assessors. 
 
Viewings 
 
If your property is already on the market, you can continue to advertise it as being for sale but you should not allow people in to view your property. 
 
There should not be any visitors into your home, and you should therefore not let people visit your property for viewings. Your agent may be able to conduct virtual viewings and you could speak to them about this possibility. 
 
Accepting offers 
 
The buying and selling process can continue during this period but you should be aware that the process is likely to take longer than normal. 
 
You are free to continue to accept offers on your property, however the selling process may take longer. 
Advice for people to stay at home and away from others means you should not invite visitors into your home, including prospective buyers or advisors. 
 
Exchanging contracts 
 
Once you have exchanged contracts, you have entered into a legal agreement to purchase that home. 
 
If the property you are purchasing is unoccupied you can continue with the transaction. 
If the property you are purchasing is currently occupied, we recommend that all parties should work to either delay the exchange of contracts until after the period where stay-at-home measures to fight coronavirus (COVID-19) are in place, or include explicit contractual provisions to take account of the risks presented by the virus. 
 
Government advice published 26 March 2020 
 
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