With estate agents working from home during coronavirus, you can still buy your dream home here, with the help of technology. We find out what your options are if you wish to buy a property in Britain or you are already well into the process. Find out, too, how the industry is adapting to the crisis and see how future purchasers can fix their exchange rate.
With new information and guidance emerging every day, it’s difficult to know how to proceed with day-to-day life right now, let alone a UK property purchase. But if you were already in the process and are left hanging, can you still buy during lockdown?
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We chat to industry professionals to source their advice on how to proceed, and to learn how they are adapting to ensure the property market keeps moving.
Can I still buy?
The government has announced that estate agents must stop conducting viewings. However, everyone from mortgage brokers to estate agents are mobilised and ready to help you do so online and you can easily use virtual viewings to ‘visit’ properties from the comfort of your own home.
If you’re at the start of your property buying journey – what better way to spend lockdown than searching through Rightmove. Any visit to a property website will deliver reams of photos of the properties for sale, but buying a property based on photos alone is difficult. However, since the announcement was made that estate agents must cease viewings, interest in virtual viewings has been through the roof.
Just yesterday, a company called Revvis launched technology that allows buyers to go on virtual walk-throughs of the properties they are interested in. The programme also allows properties to be viewed via virtual reality, and incorporates a function that lets buyers play around with aspects of the properties they may like to change. For example, how the furniture is arranged or the colour the rooms are painted.
We spoke to Dan Unthank of Holbrook Property Finance, who assured us that mortgage brokers are perfectly set up for remote working so it’s a good time to be reaching out: “The world is still turning. Lockdown doesn’t have to mean shutdown.” In terms of whether banks are still granting mortgage applications, Dan tells us: “Banks are still very much open for business. The announcement of the three-month mortgage holiday has inundated them with enquiries, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t get around to granting mortgage applications – it will just take a little longer than normal.”
As to whether now is a good time to apply for a mortgage Dan tells us: “We’re advising our clients to assess their individual circumstances and to make the right move for them and their families. Mortgage offers typically stand for six months, so you have time to decide what the right decision is for you.”
Additionally, Neil Weston, Head of Scout Financial Services offered his advice on how those looking to buy in the future can best spend this time: “Potential buyers should be thinking about booking an appointment to speak with a mortgage broker now, to ensure they are fully prepared to enter the property market in the very best possible position once the current restrictions are lifted.
“They will also be able to take advantage of some of the lower interest rates that will be on offer. Use this time to get your documentation together and across to your broker so you can prepare, know how much you can borrow, what monthly repayments you can expect and so on. Then, once this situation is behind us, you will be ready to get out there and find your dream house straight away.”
Buying in the UK is safe, but your money is exposed to ‘currency risk’. Don’t commit to buying before reading the Property Buyer’s Guide to Currency.
This week, ReallyMoving.com issued useful advice for buyers and sellers during this uncertain time. CEO Rob Houghton stated: “The enforcement of a UK-wide lockdown will leave thousands of home movers across the country with no choice but to put their plans on hold temporarily. For those who haven’t yet exchanged contracts it would be wise to hold off until the lockdown period is over, to avoid a situation where you are legally committed to completing but physically unable to move due to lockdown restrictions.
“If you have already exchanged and are waiting to complete, speak to your solicitor as soon as possible to try and agree a new completion date with all other parties. Our strong advice is to keep the lines of communication open between all parties and show as much goodwill as possible.”
We also contacted Hannah Carey, Head of Conveyancing at Wright Hassall, a law firm based in the Midlands, for her advice to those who have either exchanged contracts or who are due to exchange imminently: “We have to be mindful of what the government requires of people to keep them safe, so we’re advising all of our clients in line with government advice. Our clients who have already exchanged contracts are quite rightly concerned that the physical process of moving is in breach of government guidelines.
“While no official ban has been placed on moving house, we’re advising anyone who is trying to decide whether or not it’s the right thing to do to make their decision based on what’s best for their individual circumstances and health. Not going ahead with a move after exchanging contracts could leave them in breach of contract, but many buyers would prefer to run this risk rather than risk their health or the health of others. We’re currently working closely with other law firms to establish the best way to deal with clients in this situation given these unusual circumstances.’
“For those who have yet to exchange, quick turnaround is still an option, i.e. exchange and move on the same day if possible. Or, alternatively we’re looking at putting transactions on hold, or exchanging now but including a long stop date in the contract alongside additional provisions to account for what may or may not happen in the future. The market was really buoyant before this, and we’re hopeful that when people can return to viewing properties and making offers, things will return to how they were before COVID-19.”