The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the UK government imposing extreme social distancing measures across the country in an attempt to prevent the spread of the disease. These rules have had a major impact across the country and many people have been confined to their homes for several weeks. There is no doubt that social distancing measures have had a dramatic impact on our daily lives, particularly if you are in the middle of a major life event such as moving house. Sadly, it is likely that COVID-19 will affect your house buying experience and lead to additional challenges and delays. During this unprecedented time, the government has asked parties involved in home moving to adapt and be flexible. To help you prepare, here is what to expect if you are in the process of buying or selling a home:
What delays should I expect?
The government has stressed that there is no need for home buyers or sellers to pull out of transactions due to the measures in place to protect against COVID-19. The buying and selling process can continue during this period but the parties involved should expect significant delays. Wherever possible, homebuyers and renters should delay moving to a new property until after the COVID-19 measures have been lifted. It is not recommended to put your property on the market at this time, as you will be unable to arrange viewings with prospective buyers. If you are hoping to put your property on the market soon, then use this time to gather the information you will need to sell or rent your property. You can also contact property experts like estate agents over the phone, to discuss current market conditions and get advice on the selling or renting process. If your property is already on the market, then you can continue to advertise it but you must avoid arranging viewings or have visitors to your property.
What if my property move is scheduled during isolation measures?
The UK government has issued the following advice if your property move is scheduled during stay-at-home measures:
- If the property being moved into is vacant, then homebuyers can continue with their property move on the scheduled date.
- If the property is currently occupied, then the parties involved in home moving are encouraged to amicably agree on alternative moving dates. Ideally, this should be at a time when social distancing measures against COVID-19 are no longer in place.
- Homebuyers may still be able to move on their scheduled date if the home move is classed as critical and a new moving date cannot be agreed due to contractual reasons or other issues.
Do I still need to obtain an EPC?
New social distancing measures have left many homeowners questioning whether they still need to obtain an Energy Performance Certificates (EPC). On 2 April 2020, the UK government released information stating that the legal requirement to obtain an EPC will remain in place, so long as the assessment can be conducted safely and in line with government guidance on COVID-19. Experts at EPC For You advise that “EPC’s need to be available to potential buyers or tenants as soon as you start to market your property.” The document provides detailed information on the energy efficiency of your property and provides recommendations on how to improve your energy rating and make the property more economical. As mentioned, the legal requirement to obtain an EPC still applies. However, the government's advice is that you should not have visitors to your property while social distancing measures are in place. This means that you may have to delay your EPC assessment until after the COVID-19 measures have been lifted. If your property is empty or the EPC is essential, then the assessment can go ahead as long as social distancing advice is followed.
The UK has been in lockdown for several weeks and people are still trying to adjust to the extreme social distancing measures in place. While it is clear that these policies have had a major impact on our daily lives and routines, it is important to remember that they are in place to protect the vulnerable and save lives. There is no denying that COVID-19 will affect your housing buying or selling experience, but there are plenty of ways to plan for potential issues and delays. Use the above advice to help you understand how to proceed and prepare if you are in the process of moving or selling a house during COVID-19.
Guest blog post by Ella Hendrix for Bristol Property Centre.