Buying and selling residential property in the time of COVID-19: your questions answered

3 min Read

The coronavirus pandemic and resulting UK lockdown has impacted all areas of life, including for those buying or selling a house. We answer some of the most commonly asked questions relating to residential property transactions below.

I am worried about the long term impact of my decision to buy/sell, can I pull out of the transaction at any stage?

You can withdraw at any stage up to exchange of contracts; the legally binding obligation to buy or sell arises on exchange of contracts taking place. Once contracts are exchanged both seller and buyer will be bound to proceed and if one party is unable to do so because they are ill or cannot get a removal company for example, they will be liable for any losses or damages the other party incurs. It may therefore be better to agree to a simultaneous exchange and completion.

I want to minimise the risk of being in breach of contract, can we exchange contracts and complete on the same day?

Yes – the part of the process normally undertaken between exchange of contracts and completion will have to be done without the certainty of the matter proceeding. There will be an element of costs risk but this can be discussed with you in the light of your particular circumstances.

I am avoiding contact with others – do documents need to be witnessed?

Yes and it must be by someone other than a member of your family. They will need to see you signing the document but this should be achievable with the minimum of personal contact.

My solicitor may still be operating but what about the necessary Government agencies?

At present the Land Registry and local authorities are working normally. They provide searches and information which are a key part of the conveyancing process.

Our buyers have asked us to deep clean the property. Are we obliged to do so?

The standard contractual provisions say unless a new build the buyer accepts the property in the physical state it is in at the date of the contract. Sometimes it can be agreed that a property be professionally cleaned. This is a matter for specific negotiation.

I am worried about delays. Will the transaction take longer than normal?

Unless there are personal reasons of ill health there are no reasons why CV19 should delay timescales. However, given the general disruption and dependence on the action of third parties (e.g removal firms) there is no guarantee that exceptional circumstances may not arise.

I am nervous leaving my home – do I need to come to your office?

It should be possible to proceed without a face to face meeting. Original documents  (transfers and mortgage deeds) can be emailed or posted to you to be signed and meetings can take place via Skype calls.

At Russell-Cooke we have put flexible working arrangements in place which will enable us to continue to provide the advice and service you need to progress your sale and purchase. We will leave no stone unturned in trying to meet your required timescales.

Briefings Individuals & families residential property conveyancing Q&A covid-19 coronavirus Nigel Coates