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    Lifting of lockdown: Is now the time to move home?

    Summary

    Co-Head of Residential Real Estate Emily Lui discusses key considerations now that the restrictions on estate agents have been tentatively lifted.

    The housing sector has breathed a tentative sigh of relief now that the Government has announced that conveyancing can resume in an attempt to jump-start the economy. It has been well publicised that the effects of the virtual lockdown have had a damaging effect on the economy and the news is welcome across the board but new guidance must be followed so that the lifting does not cause a notable increase in infections.

    According to government figures, the freeze on buying, selling, and renting caused by the start of the lockdown in March has meant at least 450,000 buyers and renters have been unable to carry on with their moving plans.

    The Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick announced plans to enable people to “move home safely”, the guidance is based around physical aspects of the legal and moving process.

    It was announced last week that estate agents’ offices can open; in-person viewings are allowed; show homes can open; and removal companies and the “other essential parts of the sales and letting process are re-started with immediate effect”.

    There is no clear definition of what would amount to an “essential” part of the process, but as the guidance says tradespeople such as fitters can operate (provided they do so in line with health guidance), it seems that the interpretation could be wide. This will help those people wishing to purchase and undertake works to their new home shortly after completion.

    There is a clear message from the Government that the parties involved in a transaction should be “as flexible as possible”, and we are told that: “This will include doing more of the process online, such as virtual initial viewings; vacating your current property whilst other people are shown around; and ensuring your property is thoroughly cleaned before someone else moves in.”

    We are pleased to receive news that many of the estate agents we deal with either have or are working to open their offices and conduct viewings in line with the guidelines, in order to enable the market to move forwards with new transactions.

    The new guidance, particularly surrounding removals, should enable clients who are currently in the middle of a transaction to agree completion dates, but there is a warning that if it becomes necessary to pause all home moves for a short period of time, to manage the spread of the coronavirus, then they will do so. People should consider whether their contracts will need to make provisions for this. This is something we would strongly recommend as we are still in an extended period of uncertainty, with the risk of future lockdowns, and the re-iterated guidance that anyone advised to self-isolate should not be moving home, which could prevent a completion date being met by either a buyer or a seller and that party being in breach of their contract.

    Should you have any questions regarding the above information, or need any residential property related legal advice, please get in contact with Emily Lui, at emily.lui@seddons.co.uk or on 0207 725 8064, or your existing contact within Seddons’ Residential Real Estate team.

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