Don’t let the pandemic stop you from moving in 2021
The middle of the Covid-19 pandemic does not seem, at first sight, an ideal time to move home. However, figures suggest the opposite – that the housing market is flourishing. So, what options do you have for moving in the pandemic, and what restrictions are there?
What do government regulations say about moving home?
The government updated its regulations about moving home on 21st December 2020.
The regulations specified that:
“The housing market in England will remain open in all 4 tiers. This means that people looking to move home will be able to both continue with planned moves and view new properties to move into in future. Estate and lettings agents, removers, valuers can continue to work safely, but work remotely where possible.”
In other words, all aspects of buying or selling a property and moving home will be able to continue, even in parts of the country designated as tier 4. Needless-to-say, though, this comes with a long guidance list.
Broadly speaking, these are what would be expected: that as much as possibly should be carried out virtually; that social distancing, personal protective equipment (PPE) and hygiene should be maintained at all stages; that properties where someone is self-isolating should not be visited.
How has the housing market performed in 2020?
2020 could have been a disastrous year for the housing market, but in fact the opposite is true. Figures comparing house prices between 2019 and 2020 vary, depending on the method of calculation and the exact twelve months used in the figures, but all show a substantial rise. For example:
- The Land Registry’s UK House Price Index (based on sold properties) shows a 5.4% increase.
- Rightmove’s index (based on asking prices) shows a 6.6% increase.
- Nationwide’s index (based on lending) shows a 5.8 increase.
- Halifax’s index (based on lending (shows a 7.6% increase.
It is notable that higher figures come from indexes calculated from November to November, rather than October to October. This may suggest that price rises are gathering pace.
Other statistics also support a high demand for moving home. Research from Trussle on the proportion of homeowners choosing to move as opposed to remortgaging, shows a large shift towards moving. Last December, the proportion was 63% in favour of remortgaging, against just 37% in favour of moving. By this month, the figures had reversed to 56% for moving and 44% for remortgaging.
How is viewing affected by the pandemic?
Under the government’s guidelines, you are still able to view properties. However, the process is not quite the same as in normal times.
In keeping with the recommendation that as much of the process as possible should be online, initial viewings are now usually conducted remotely. This has the effect of reducing the number of people visiting a property in person to those who are serious about buying it. At the same time, you will not need to take the risk of visiting properties that may be completely inappropriate.
All visits should be conducted within safety guidelines for contact during the pandemic. Masks should be worn at all times and visitors are advised to bring hand sanitiser with them to use frequently.
In fact, the move to virtual viewings should be seen as a positive step. If, as seems likely, this remains normal after the pandemic is over, it will help reduce time wasted for both buyer and seller. It will be particularly useful if you are viewing properties some distance from your current home, since you will only need to travel to properties for a final decision.
How is the conveyancing process affected by the pandemic?
The legal part of buying and selling property most likely to cause delays at any time is the conveyancing process. Conveyancing covers the steps between an offer being accepted and the keys being handed over. Broadly speaking, it includes:
- Surveys and searches being carried out
- Relevant documents being obtained
- Contracts being drawn up, negotiated and exchanged
- Payment being made from the buyer to the seller
- Payment of fees to solicitors, estate agents and other professionals involved in the process
The good news is that most of this is conducted remotely anyway. The main exceptions are the various surveys that may be required. Surveyors can enter properties to carry out a survey, but there is a possibility that this could take a little longer than normal, due to safety compliance.
There is also a possibility that it could take longer to receive the documents required, due to restricted working. However, these delays do not seem to have seriously impacted the conveyancing process being successfully concluded. What can always impact, though, is whether or not you have chosen the best Conveyancing Solicitor to handle your Conveyancing.
What other aspects of moving home have been affected by the pandemic?
A widespread concern we see is that it can be more difficult to get a mortgage during the pandemic. Fewer products are currently available, but there are still excellent mortgages on offer, especially if you have a larger deposit.
Similarly, it may be a little harder to find the right removal company, since some companies may be closed or have some employees on furlough. However, removal firms are allowed to operate, within extra safety margins.
The evidence certainly suggests a high demand for buying a new home, with record numbers of transactions recorded in recent months. There seems no reason why this should not continue into 2021, although of course the longer-term prospects are harder to predict.
If you were hoping to move in 2021, there is every reason to go ahead with your plans, especially as the current Stamp Duty Relief will be continuing at least until the end of March.
Get in touch with us for a free moving home quotation, or to speak with our award-winning Leighton Buzzard Conveyancing team.