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Homebuyers and renters urged to delay property moves

The Government has urged those with imminent house moves to delay their moving date while measures are in place to stop the spread of coronavirus.

New advice published last night says that homebuyers and renters should, where possible, delay any planned move to another property. It follows the nationwide lockdown implemented by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday, which stipulates that people should not leave their homes other than for food, health reasons or work if they cannot work from home, for at least three weeks.

The Government advice says that if you have already exchanged contracts – the point at which the sale becomes legally binding – and the property is occupied, you should work with the current occupants and the estate agent to delay the move or resolve the matter another way.

But if the property is vacant, it says you are fine to complete the move. However, it adds that anyone who has symptoms or is self-isolating should not move house if at all possible.

If your home is on the market, you can continue to advertise it as being for sale but you'll have to cancel viewings, as you can't have people coming into your property.

See Coronavirus Financial Help & Rights for full information and help.

I've exchanged – what if my mortgage offer expires during the delay?

Mortgage offers for moving house are usually valid for six months. But UK Finance – which represents banks and mortgage lenders – also said that banks and building societies will work to help customers who have exchanged contracts to extend their mortgage offer for three months, enabling them to move at a later date.

If either the customer's circumstances or the terms of the house purchase change significantly during this time, and continuing with the mortgage would cause financial hardship, UK Finance also said that lenders will help customers manage their finances as a 'matter of urgency'.

Can I still put my property on the market?

The Government says that you can speak to estate agents over the phone and they will be able to give you general advice about the local property market – but they will not be able to start actively marketing your home in the usual way.

It says the current advice about avoiding unnecessary social contact means you should not invite non-essential visitors into your home, which includes property agents, photographers and energy performance certificate assessors.

My property is already on the market – can I accept offers on it?

While the Government says you can technically accept offers to buy your property, be aware that the selling process may take longer than usual.

You should not invite visitors into your home, including prospective buyers or advisers.

I'm a renter/buyer and my house move is unavoidable – what should I do?

If you're a renter or buyer, you should do whatever you can to try and delay your house move.

If you're a renter, this may mean speaking to your landlords in your current property and your new property to try and see if you can come to some sort of agreement to delay the move.

If you're a buyer, you should work with the other key parties, such as the people you're buying your home from.

If moving is unavoidable for contractual reasons, then the Government says you should do whatever you can to follow advice on staying away from others to minimise the spread of coronavirus.

Do all you can to delay the move, but if this isn't possible, complete the move while continuing to try to avoid contact with others.

The Residential Landlords Association told us: "In these circumstances, we would point landlords to the Government guidance. The key phrase here is 'where possible'. These are unprecedented times, but our advice would be to keep lines of communication open.

"If a move has to take place, ensure rules regarding social distancing are followed, such as staying two metres apart and washing your hands frequently."

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