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What can we do now to be in the best position when this ends?

  1. 14 April 2020
  2. By Daisy Stephens

You may not be able to move house during lockdown, but you don’t have to just do nothing.


Unless your move is classed as an essential move or you’re moving to a vacant property, chances are your plans have been put on hold. Estate agents, surveyors, removal firms and conveyancers up and down the country have shut up shop, and social distancing measures mean that any moves that do go ahead are very different from the norm.

But it’s important to remember that, even though no one is quite sure yet how long the situation will go on for, your move is only paused. When restrictions are lifted and businesses reopen their doors, you probably won’t want to hang around – it will be time to get your plans moving again, so you can be in your new home ready to start your new life as soon as possible. And in the meantime there are things you can do to make sure you’re best placed to spring into action as soon as the lockdown is over.

If you were still viewing properties, or you were just about to start

If you were in the early stages of your move, in a way you’re lucky as you don’t have a team of removals, a surveyor and a conveyancer you had to cancel on, and you don’t have a signed contract to honour. But you’re probably still anxious to get moving, so in the meantime you can:

Sort out your priorities

If you were yet to start looking at properties, this is a good time to think carefully about what you want. How many bedrooms and bathrooms? Do you need off-road parking, or a nice big garden? Are you looking for a modern house with all the mod cons, or an older house with period features? Explore online property portals for inspiration, and to get an idea of what you’ll be able to afford – remember you might need to revise your priorities list and make compromises once you’ve seen what’s on offer.

Even if you’ve already done this and were viewing properties, it’s good to keep an eye on what’s out there and amend your priorities list as you deem necessary.

Make use of virtual viewings

Over the past few months you’ve probably done virtual pub trips, virtual meetings and virtual gatherings with your family, so why not chuck some virtual property viewings in there as well? When you’re viewing properties online it will often say if they can offer virtual or video viewings. Whilst it won’t be the same as visiting the property in person – you won’t know if the property is unreasonably cold or if it smells of damp, and you’ll probably find it hard to judge the ‘feel’ of the property – it’s a good way of checking if a property meets all your criteria from a practical point of view so you can start drawing up a list of properties you might want to visit in person once the lockdown is lifted. Even if some agencies or properties can’t do virtual viewings, you can still tell a lot about a property by looking at photos, floorplans and EPCs, and by reading the description of a property.

View our top tips on interpreting online property listings or have a look at our property viewing checklist so see what important things you can check or ask about during virtual viewings.

Carry out neighbourhood research

Whilst this is not the best time to walk around and get a feel for the neighbourhood, you can research things like crime statistics and broadband speed – things that, in ordinary circumstances, you might not have had the time to do. Using this time to get a better idea of the different neighbourhoods in your desired area will mean you’re much more clued up when you come to properly viewing properties after the restrictions are lifted – you’ll know which parts you’d be happy to live in and which parts to avoid.

Save

It’s probably the last thing you want to hear, especially if you’ve been saving up your deposit for years, but in this period of intense economic uncertainty, putting away extra money for your deposit or for the cost of moving itself is probably a good idea.

At this point no one is totally sure of the magnitude of the economic hangover from coronavirus, but having a bit of extra money in case mortgage lenders require a larger deposit, removals companies require a larger initial payment for them to keep the date free, or you want to add a valuation in with your survey to make sure the price is still fair, is always a good idea.

If you look carefully at your finances, you’ll find a number of opportunities for saving – for example, the money you used to spend on your commute, on eating out, or on your morning coffee.

If you’d had an offer accepted on a property

If your offer on a property had been accepted but you hadn’t exchanged contracts, you’re probably feeling a little bit like you’re in limbo – you’d chosen a property you wanted to live in, but at the moment there’s no legal guarantee the sale will go ahead. But although you’re unlikely to be able to get this security during lockdown, there are things you can do to make the process easier afterwards.

Inform the seller of your intentions

If your heart is still set on buying the property and you believe you’ll still be financially able to, it’s a good idea to keep in touch with the seller and reassure them you’re still committed to going ahead with the transaction.

This will build a good working relationship, so that when the time comes you’re less likely to be gazumped by the seller and they’re more likely to be accommodating if problems arise.

Find a conveyancing solicitor

Whilst conveyancing solicitors and licensed conveyancers aren’t able to carry out all of their duties during lockdown (for example, some local authorities have temporarily closed their property search departments so conveyancers can’t carry out the searches they usually would), there is nothing stopping you from getting quotes from local conveyancers and selecting the firm you’d like to use once the lockdown has been lifted.

This will also go a long way in proving to the seller that you’re still serious about buying the property.

Find a surveyor

Similarly, whilst physical surveys have all but stopped you can still get quotes from local surveyors and choose the surveying company you’d like to employ once restrictions have been loosened. Remember that after lockdown it’s likely there will be some pent-up demand for house moving services like conveyancers, surveyors and removals. As a result it’s a good idea to get in there now to help ensure you don’t have to wait any longer necessary.

Check in with your mortgage lender

If you’d already got a mortgage offer, it’s a good idea to check what their policies are with extending offers. In March it was announced that lenders were giving a three-month offer extension to borrowers who’d already exchanged contracts. Even if you didn’t exchange contracts before lockdown was announced, if you’d already obtained an offer it’s still worth speaking to your lender to see if they can extend it.

If you hadn’t got a mortgage offer by the time lockdown was announced, it may be difficult to obtain one  simply because mortgage lenders are not able to carry out the mortgage valuations that are an essential part of making sure their offers are financially safe. There are still some mortgages on offer however, although many will have a higher Loan-To-Value (LTV) – essentially, they’ll be willing to cover a smaller proportion of the property price, so you’ll need a bigger deposit.

If you’d exchanged contracts but had to delay the completion date:

This is in many ways the most frustrating stage for your move to be frozen – the end was in sight, and you’ve probably spent a considerable amount of money on mortgage arrangement fees and a property survey. But remember, there’s no need to pull out of the transaction – your move is paused and will hopefully go ahead once restrictions are lifted. And in the meantime, there are things you can do.

Confirm the delay with both conveyancing solicitors

The first thing to do if you haven’t already is to ensure both yours and the sellers conveyancers are aware of the delay. This is essential as at the moment you and the seller are legally obligated to complete the purchase. By confirming the delay with your solicitor, and having them confirm it with the seller’s solicitor, you’re avoiding any immediate legal issues with the delay of completion.

Tidy and declutter

This is an important step in preparing for a move, and something you might not have had time to do in normal circumstances. Tidying the house and decluttering your belongings will make sure you’re only moving the stuff you really need and want, which will save you money as removal firms charge by volume. It will also make packing much easier, as there’ll be less stuff and you’ll have a purpose or use in mind (and therefore a place) for every item.

For decluttering tips, check out our guide to purging your possessions.

Pack what you can

As we don’t yet know how long the restrictions will be in place for, you don’t want to start packing everything up just yet. But there are some things that you probably won’t miss right now – for example, you probably won’t need your thick winter coats until autumn, there may be kitchen items you only really use at Christmas, and the contents of your loft or cellar can probably be mostly packed without you missing anything for a while.

By starting the packing early, you won’t need to rush, so all the boxes and suitcases will be better-organised which will make unpacking at your new property much easier. There’s also less of a chance of things being broken due to inadequate packing, and things are less likely to go missing on moving day because you’ll have time to create a proper removals inventory.

Check out our packing guide for more tips and advice.

Prepare your current property

You can also prepare the property you’ll be leaving behind. If you’re selling it you can deep clean so it’s ready for the next person, and if you’re renting you can clean it and fix any little bits to maximise the chances of you getting your full deposit back.

Keep your removals company in the loop

You’ll probably have already informed your removals company about your postponed completion date, but it’s common courtesy to keep in regular contact with them. If you have a planned provisional moving date, tell them. If your sale looks like it’s going to fall through, let them know as soon as you can. By keeping them sweet you’re more likely to guarantee their loyalty even after the lockdown is over and they’re inundated with customer requests.

Plan

Obtain the measurements of your new property and plan where all your furniture will go, look at pictures of the rooms and decide what recordation you’ll do, and if you’ll need to buy any furniture start looking now (even if you don’t order it just yet). Planning how you’ll make the house your own will keep up your motivation during this uncertain period, and will make settling into your new property and your new life that much easier.
 
Whilst the coronavirus lockdown has stopped you from doing many things you’d like to do, there are still some things that you can tick off your list. With the potential for a ‘rush’ after restrictions are lifted, it’s important to do what you can to make sure you’re at the front of the queue and ready to go as soon as the lockdown is over – and it’ll keep your motivation up, too.
 

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