PROPERTY? DON’T PULL OUT – JUST PAUSE…
I spoke to an agent yesterday and informed him that my clients were going to delay ‘until we were over the worst’. My heart sank when he said ‘the worst of what’ – it was clear then that guidance for the property sector was needed… and fast. The government issued guidance yesterday evening for real estate lawyers, estate agents, surveyors and removal firms – what does it say and what should we do?
The general tone of the advice was that business could continue but, very much like life itself at present, this is subject to limitations and restrictions. Buying and selling property requires:
- fit and well clients,
- lawyers who can work remotely and have full access to documents,
- banks to be operational and able to transfer large sums of money,
- agents on hand to deliver keys, and
- removal firms in a position to move items from ‘A to B’ safely.
The current crisis has placed all of this in jeopardy. One of the main messages was that all parties need to be flexible – these are exceptional times and normal rules do not apply.
The advice distinguishes occupied and unoccupied property – cases of the latter should, if all parties agree, be able to proceed. However, greater caution needs to be exercised with regard to the former. How can social distancing be adhered to in this situation?
Whilst the government confirmed that ‘critical home moves’ would be classed as ‘essential travel’, they urged parties to postpone completions scheduled for the ‘lockdown’ for the reasons outlined. Therefore, clients, agents and lawyers need to work together to find a solution.
Mortgage offers are not offered indefinitely – they have a ‘shelf life’ of around 3-6 months. It is therefore a concern that some of these offers will expire before completions take place. UK Finance are currently working on proposals to extend offers and/or alleviate hardship – but what this will actually look like remains to be seen…
Taking on a property to sell during these exceptional times will be almost impossible but initial discussions over the phone, or by video conferencing, can take place. This is also a great time for buyers to ‘get their house in order’ – quite literally – collating certificates, service records and planning documents so that they are ‘exchange ready’. With regard to properties already on the market, viewings can be arranged so long as they are ‘virtual’ and offers can be accepted on the proviso that all parties understand the pace at which the transaction is likely to proceed.
Acting in our clients’ best interests is at the very core of what we do and the guidance reaffirms this. All clients must be supported and made aware of the difficulties, particularly those considered to be ‘vulnerable’. We will be spending the coming days and weeks in agreeing strategies for all of clients – for some, withdrawing may be the only option whilst, for others, placing a temporary pause on proceedings may be more suitable. There is also the option to vary the contract terms and to add a ‘COVID clause’.
Why use the BB residential real estate team?
We have been working flexibly for years and so the transition to working from home full time was seamless and stress free for our real estate team. It’s what we do. We are very much ‘open for business’ – if you need any help with your residential property enquiry, then contact us.
For further information please contact me on +4420 7288 4798 or one of our other residential real estate experts for advice and assistance.