7 mins read

Moving house is one of the most stressful events most people will experience. Combining that with the current situation makes it even more overwhelming and confusing.

It’s currently difficult to find clear guidance on the best course of action for moving house. We’ve produced this guide to collate the available information and answer some of the biggest questions surrounding coronavirus and moving house. This guide represents that advice as it currently stands, and will be updated as new guidance comes into place.

Key advice

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, along with the Law Society, are advising that house moves should only go ahead if they are unavoidable for contractual reasons. They add that ‘Where the property being moved into is vacant, then you can continue… Where the property is currently occupied, we encourage all parties to do all they can to amicably agree alternative dates to move.’

If possible, you should stay in your current home, and delay your move. However this may not be possible if you are part of a chain or you have a time dependent mortgage offer. In these instances you may be able to continue your move.

In all cases it is vital to follow the guidance about protecting yourself and others from the spread of coronavirus. If you are self-isolating, it is important that you remain in your home. This means not moving house until you have completed the required 14 days. If you are able to move house, keep yourself safe by following the social distancing and hygiene measures.

The coronavirus situation in the UK is unprecedented. Most people have little previous experience to inform an appropriate response. But, everyone is going through this together. If you need to make changes to your house move, it’s likely that you will receive a lot of empathy and understanding from your lawyers and estate agents.

What does this mean for your move?

Currently the advice around moving house is very general, but we expect that more specific guidance will be issued in the next few days. Our advice is an interpretation of the latest Government, trade body, and Law Society guidance, for each stage of the home selling process.

I need to move house but haven’t yet received an offer

In this situation the advice is clear: you will need to pause your house sale.

You can continue to market your property but conducting in-person house viewings, or inviting estate agents to value your home, will put yourself and others unnecessarily at risk. You may be able to give virtual tours of your home and list photographs online, but if you receive an offer, you won’t be able to move until later in the year.

If you need to move for financial reasons and now can’t, you may be worried about supporting yourself. The government has introduced a number of schemes that you can take advantage of. For example: you may be able to apply for a three-month mortgage holiday. This will allow you to take a break from making mortgage payments if you have suffered financial hardship as a result of coronavirus.

Universal credit and furloughing payments could also provide indirect help by creating greater job and salary security.

I’ve accepted an offer on my house

If you’ve accepted an offer, but not yet exchanged contracts, you’re likely to experience a delay in the progression of your house sale.

Coronavirus is creating a very volatile environment, both for the property market and people’s personal situations. Any potential buyer is likely to be advised not to exchange in the current market. This is because a move in date cannot be confirmed, and mortgage funding could become more difficult to get. Moreover, some people are hoping house prices will fall in the coming months. They might try and hold out to see if they can get a cheaper price for your home.

I’ve exchanged

Once you’ve exchanged a contract the situation gets a bit more complicated. If you have a set completion date (the day you hand over the keys and move out) that is coming up very soon, your move might be considered unavoidable.

According to the Law Society, if you have a completion date set ‘within the next few days’ and both parties are able to proceed, ‘there is currently no government guidance to prevent you’ moving. But, they add that you must still follow the guidance on social distancing and hygiene.

However, if at all possible you should try and delay moving house while the stay at home measures are in place.

If you are suffering from any of the symptoms of Covid-19 you should not move. You must follow the rules regarding self-isolation for 14 days. This includes delaying your move until it is safe for you and others to do so.

If you’ve not already set a date to move out, or it is more than a few days away, you should delay the move. Your solicitor and estate agent will be able to advise you on the best course of action.

It is worth discussing the possibility that the context of coronavirus will cause significant changes over the next few months and making some allowances for that. Many people will be able to empathise and provide solutions to make the delay easier. UK Finance, for example, have confirmed that mortgage lenders are to extend mortgage offers up to three months, to enable customers to delay their move without fear of losing their loan.

Note: Removals companies may no longer be able to support your move. The British Association of Removers has advised their members to ‘only complete any moves that are underway and immediately cancel or postpone any move that has not yet started.’

My sale has fallen through because of coronavirus - what next?

It is likely that there will be an increase in the number of home sales falling through in this period. Financial circumstances, being unable to use removal companies, and becoming unwell with coronavirus, will all impact people’s capacity to commit to buying a home. This can be a heartbreaking and stressful experience, and will, for a time, create a sense of uncertainty around your house move.

Your solicitor may advise that it’s worth continuing to talk with your buyer. If they have pulled out because they are unwell and need to isolate, or because their chain is delayed, there’s a possibility that you could still come to an arrangement. Many banks are now offering extensions on their mortgage offers (usually up to 3 months) to help those who have had to delay their move.

Unfortunately, for many people the reason they can’t move forward is likely to be financial. In the next few weeks mortgages will become more difficult to qualify for. Many surveyors will not be able to undertake assessments. This means lenders will need to be more cautious, as they have a less accurate understanding of the value of your home. Barclays and Halifax have already reduced the number of high loan to value mortgages available. These changes will make it more difficult for people to purchase new homes.

If your sale collapses because of coronavirus you will need to pause your home sale. You can continue to market your property, but continuing with in person house viewings is against government guidance and would put you and others at risk.

You may be able to take advantage of the range of help that is being made available to those who have been financially impacted by coronavirus. This includes mortgage payment holidays, and salary support schemes.

If you need any support or further information we are happy to help in any way we can. Get in touch with us on: 020 3608 6556 or email: hello@getagent.co.uk