It’s true that 2021 kicked off to a less than ideal, yet necessary start, with the UK Prime Minister instructing those within Tier 4 areas “To stay at home” and enter a period of partial lockdown until at least February, although some sources predict that could be more like March.
Confusion continues to cause concern with lots of people feeling unsure about how to get a mortgage or move during these tentative times.
The good news? Despite new restrictions, the housing market is staying open during lockdown 3.0.
We explain the government rules on property viewings and moving home during lockdown in this short guide but feel free to send your questions to one of our experts if you have a specific query that needs quashing.
Is the property market still open during lockdown?
Yes, people looking to move home can continue with planned moves, view new properties and plan purchases for the future.
Although the experience of buying, selling or viewing a property will be different to accommodate for safety measures, the English property market is open.
That means that essential experts like mortgage brokers, letting agents, removers, valuers and conveyancers can continue to work while following government guidelines.
Will the property market close during lockdown?
The introduction of the tier system hoped to prevent the spread of Coronavirus but the unpredictable nature of the disease and its effects on both the population and economy may result in a national pause.
The official advice from the government is that, “We encourage all parties involved to be as flexible as possible and to be prepared to delay moves, for example if one of those involved becomes ill with COVID-19 during the moving process or has to self-isolate. It may become necessary to pause all home moves locally or nationally for a short period of time to manage the spread of coronavirus. We will let you know if this needs to happen.”
Can I view a property during lockdown?
The tier system has created a hurdle for hopeful buyers who feel unsure about whether or not they are allowed to travel across borders into different tier systems to view a property.
As of January, the official advice is that:
Everyone is advised against travelling to or from an area in very high alert level (tier 3).
People in tier 4 areas aren’t allowed to travel outside of their area or travel overseas.
Estate and lettings agents and removal firms can continue to work during the tier 4 restrictions in England.
Physical property viewings are still allowed to take place as long the COVID-19 safety guidance is followed, which includes social distancing, washing hands frequently and wearing a face covering.
It’s worth noting that many letting and estate agents are encouraging virtual viewings to minimise contact given that the government advises that people only visit a property in person when they are seriously considering making an offer on it.
Virtual viewings during lockdown 3.0
The process of searching for and moving into a new home is different and property agents, conveyancers and other professionals have modified how they work to reduce the risk from the virus.
Many new build and shared ownership developers have been offering virtual flythrough videos for years as well as floor plans, detailed property specifications and images of the build’s development as it progresses.
Often, especially when the building hasn’t been completed yet, a virtual viewing and additional materials can provide all the information needed to kickstart the purchase.
Traditional properties that have been pre-owned can also offer virtual experiences and many do through online portals such as Rightmove or Zoopla.
Pre-booked, live virtual viewings can also be requested with most estate and letting agents too, giving buyers and renters the ability to view numerous properties, quickly and without the hassle of having to leave their living room.
Can I get a mortgage during lockdown 3.0?
Buying a house during the coronavirus pandemic is possible and although lenders previously restricted lending and capped loan-to-value rates for some borrowers, there are a handful of UK lenders who are returning to 10% deposit mortgages.
We’re open for business here at The Mortgage Hut so those looking for a mortgage can still seek advice and secure finance. We provide online mortgage advice, as well as telephone and face to face appointments.
Our brokers can check your eligibility for a range of relevant mortgages, without damaging your credit report, which is why many opt for their advice which so often leads to a successful mortgage approval.
Can I move house during lockdown?
You won’t be able to ask people outside of your household or support bubble to help with the move unless “absolutely necessary” - so no roping in Mum and Dad to haul wardrobes or washing machines.
You can however, still hire removal vans.
Hiring a removal company during lockdown
Removal firms are allowed to operate (hurruh!) saving your back but not your balance. If you can move with your own transport or hire a van, it could be worth considering as not only will this be considerably cheaper, it’ll help you minimise your contact.
Some household items are just too big and too heavy to move alone, so where moves are carried out, social distancing should be followed. Removal companies should also communicate their process to you before entering your property.
Contact removal firms as early as possible in advance of your move date to allow time to compare quotes, book and organise the move.
What is the guidance for moving home in England during the COVID pandemic?
Wash your hands frequently
Keep as much distance as possible from other people who are not members of your household
Ensure you follow the latest guidance on practical steps to reduce transmission
Take extra precautions when in close contact with others and wear a face covering
Ensure your previous property is thoroughly cleaned before someone else moves in.
Anyone involved in any aspect of the home-moving process should practice social distancing in line with public health advice.
Clean your belongings with standard domestic cleaning products before they are handled by others.
You and your household should also try and do as much of the packing yourself as possible.
Will lockdown affect my new build completion date?
Despite the temporary closure of construction sites back in March 2020, many site managers feel positive that their new builds will be on time for their predicted completion date.
Boris Johnson confirmed that construction sites will remain open during the latest lockdown and builders merchants like B&Q, which are essential to the supply chain of materials, have been classed as essential retail and are allowed to stay open too.
Government guidance published alongside the announcement said keeping sites open was “Essential to keeping the country operating and supporting sectors and employers”.
Tradespeople including contractors employed by housing developers can continue vital work including plumbing, water works and electricity too, all of which are essential to the completion of a new build or self-build property.
Of course, every site will be different, especially given that the UK has unpredictable weather which can also delay construction.
Snow, strong winds and excessive rain can all affect developers, so have your mortgage broker chase up the developer for an update on the build if you’re concerned about delays.