In March, everything changed in the space of a single weekend when lockdown was announced. On Friday, March 20th, it was very much business as usual as we worked with our many clients on a range of products from mortgages to life insurance policies, and critical illness cover to income replacement plans.
The spectre of coronavirus was very much present, of course, and the prospect of some level of restriction being placed on our daily lives here in the UK was certainly in the air. But just three days later, the world suddenly changed and everything was different.
One of the first casualties of lockdown was the housing market, which was effectively frozen with immediate effect.
Since then, of course, the business of buying and selling houses and filling in mortgage applications has returned with something of a boom and in some ways the residential market has never been busier. If nothing else, lockdown seemed to present an opportunity for people to reassess their needs when it came to space.
But the recent arrival of new measures designed to tackle a rising infection rate begs the question: what will happen to the housing market if we go into full lockdown again?
All the signs at the moment are that there are no plans to take any restrictive action where the residential sales market is concerned. If we do end up in a situation where more serious action is needed, though, the likelihood is that the same rules introduced in March 2020 would apply again.
Broadly speaking that would mean anyone who had exchanged contracts would be allowed to complete their move, but anyone who hadn’t would find their move on hold until it was safe to lift the restrictions.
All of which might make for a fairly nervous time among those who are under offer and who are moving toward a contract exchange.
The backlog in demand created by lockdown in the spring is still being worked through, meaning there are longer than usual delays in mortgage approvals from lenders, surveys being completed and the conveyancing process is concluded.
So what can you do to try to move things along?
The truth is that once the conveyancing process is in full swing, the outcome is largely out of your hands. But there are some things you can do.
Your estate agent and solicitor work for you, not the other way around
When you complete your purchase, one of the disbursements your solicitor or conveyancer will make from the mortgage advance will be your estate agency commission and their own fees.
It’s easy for homebuyers and sellers to forget that they are customers within this transactional relationship with the agent and legal adviser – and that means that while you should always be polite, you can also be firm in trying to get what you want.
It’s not unreasonable to push both to get things done swiftly – after all, it’s in all your interests for the deal to be completed.
Be patient and realistic
It’s one thing to get things done as quickly as possible, but you also need to be circumspect about things. Generally – though not always – local authority and Land Registry searches take at least two weeks, and often longer. That said, if a fortnight passes and you’ve had no update from your solicitor, it’s worth a call or email to find out how things are going.
Once the searches do come back, your buyer’s legal team is highly likely to have questions about some of the issues they raise. These may relate to property boundaries, neighbour access or a myriad other issues
Similarly, they may want clarification over aspects of the Property Information List that your solicitor will ask you to complete and which identifies what you’re leaving behind at the property, what you’re taking with you and what is available for purchase.
In all cases, do your best to answer promptly and accurately in order to minimise any delays in processing paperwork.
Manage expectations – your own, and your legal team’s
At the point, you instruct a solicitor, have an open conversation about timescales and process, so you understand what you will or may be asked to do.
Equally, be clear about how you want communication to be managed. Some people just like to leave their solicitor to get on with things and update them at key moments. Others like regular updates, either daily, weekly or monthly.
Be clear with your agent about what is in and out of bounds
If your buyer is having a homebuyer’s survey, then it may make sense if you have the time and money to carry out any obvious work that is likely to be a bone of contention in the report.
But even if that isn’t possible, talk to your agent about how you might respond to anything that arises in the report. Are you willing to negotiate further on the sale price if need be? If so, by how much? And in what circumstances?
If your agent knows your broad position, he or she will be able to present your own wishes in a constructive way, managing your buyer’s expectations in the process – and hopefully cutting down the to-ing and fro-ing of negotiations.
At some point, you’ll find that everyone is working towards a target completion date. Now is the time to get quotes from removal companies and check your preferred service has availability for that date.
The last thing you want is to agree on is a completion date, have it confirmed and then find you’re going to struggle to move on the day in question.
Moving is stressful – moving under the cloud of uncertainty that Covid brings, no matter how mild, makes it more stressful still.
And if you’re not yet in the conveyancing process but are aiming to move before the Stamp Duty holiday runs out at the end of next March, come and talk to us to see how we can help you to get your mortgage sorted out – and remove one more obstacle from your path.
Please note: all information contained within this article was accurate at the time of publication.
Your property may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage.
Oportfolio Ltd fees are payable on application. We charge a broker fee for property purchases of £495 and a remortgage/further advance fee of £395. Our product transfer fee is £295.