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Coronavirus and Conveyancing - an update
It is now a week since our last article about the Coronavirus pandemic and the effect on the residential conveyancing market. Although it’s only been 7 days, what a week it has been! The effect on the housing market has become even clearer and the stark reality is that it is likely to slow down considerably, likely to be a complete halt. This couldn’t have come at a worse time as the industry were hopeful of a more successful year in 2020 after the stagnation caused by Brexit in previous years.
Estate agents and conveyancers have noticed an almost immediate withdrawal of properties being marketed as restrictions on movement make it impossible for anyone to agree a sale of a property with the uncertainty of what is going to happen in the coming months. We have spoken with local agents in New Malden and the message is the same across the board – no-one is looking to move now.
A Government spokesperson has said:
"Home buyers and renters should, as far as possible, delay moving to a new house while emergency measures are in place to fight coronavirus.
“If moving is unavoidable for contractual reasons and the parties are unable to reach an agreement to delay, people must follow advice on social distancing to minimise the spread of the virus.
“Anyone with symptoms, self-isolating or shielding from the virus, should follow medical advice and not move house for the time being.”
Government advice issued by Boris Johnson on 23 March 2020 advised that all non-essential shops should close, although there was confusion as people were told that if they were unable to work from home then they could continue to operate. This meant many estate agents who had been hoping to continue, but keeping to social distancing measures, felt that they could continue to operate to some extent. However, on 24 March 2020 the NAEA Propertymark, a membership organisation for estate agents, said it received guidance from a senior civil servant that estate agents were not “essential businesses” under the new rules and should therefore close their offices immediately. So with no sales or purchases progressing, what happens to existing matters?
There are practical implications of the pandemic and lockdown to consider. Just before the lockdown we saw a rise in cases which were very advanced seeking to exchange and complete simultaneously to avoid the situation where someone had to go into self-isolation between exchange and completion because they were showing symptoms. This would have caused contractual issues and potentially that person being in breach of contract if they had not moved. However, it appears unlikely that anyone is now going to be exchanging contracts until the restrictions on movement are lifted. Whether people are happy to wait until after the pandemic eases and continue with those transactions or simply decide to pull out completely is something we will have to wait to see.
We have cases where completions are set for after the lockdown was announced 23rd March. As we are all now working remotely, the practical steps of transferring funds and sending out documentation to register the transaction are all likely to take slightly longer than usual. However, at Pearson Hards we are set up to deal with this and we hope any disruption is minimal from our end. It will just be for those homeowners to work out how they physically move house with the current restrictions in place.
We can only hope that this is another blip for the conveyancing market to ride through and that confidence returns soon after the restrictions are lifted. If you would like to speak to any of our expert team then please do call Jonathan Throp or Hatice Mustafa on 0208 949 9500 or via email on firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.