Moving Home During a Pandemic

By Donna Linden, 26th October 2020

As moving home continues to be a top-priority for many, to maximise on the current government imposed reductions on Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT), we asked Residential Property Practitioner, Donna Linden, everything you need to know about moving home during a pandemic.

Is it safe to move home during COVID?

You are still free to move home. However, you may find the process of searching for and moving into a new home is different, as lawyers, property agents and other professionals have had to modify how they work to reduce the risk from COVID-19.  As the country enters a period where there are specific local restrictions this should be considered when planning a moving date.  We at Goughs continue to keep our doors open with “business as usual”, however we are working with many third parties who are still working with reduced staffing levels or homeworkers. 

What happens on completion day?

Completion day is the day you can collect the keys to your new home and move in if this is your plan.  If you are tying in the sale of your existing home to move to a new home, then there will generally be a period between completion of your sale and purchase.  This is because we are only able to send money to the sellers’ lawyer once we have received your sale money.  We have no control over the transfer of funds once we have authorised our bank to make the transfer.  We at Goughs do all we can to ensure the transaction is as smooth and stress free for you as possible.  We will keep you informed throughout the day.  It is important that you provide us with a mobile number and keep your phone switched on and close by so that we can reach you.

What is meant by exchange of contracts?

Exchange of contracts is when the transaction becomes legally binding on both the seller and the buyer.  The buyer is generally required to provide a deposit of 10% of the purchase price.  A lower deposit can be negotiated in certain circumstances, so it is advisable to notify your lawyer if this is going to be the case.  If you are buying a property you should ensure you have your buildings insurance in place from the point of exchange of contracts and not wait until completion.  This is because you will have an obligation to complete the purchase even if the unforeseeable happened and there was a fire or flood between exchange and completion.

Do I have to pay stamp duty during the pandemic?

The government announced a stamp duty holiday on 8 July 2020.  This holiday will end on 31 March 2021.  During the stamp duty holiday there is no duty payable on properties under £500,000.00 unless the property is a buy to let property, second or subsequent home.  Stamp duty is a complex area of law and we would encourage you to make contact with Goughs if you have any questions in this regard.

I have heard transactions are taking longer than usual, why is this?

Following the government’s announcement of the stamp duty holiday the property market has seen a huge surge in transactions whilst buyers take advantage of the significant savings to be made provided completion takes place before 31 March 2021.  This coupled with the fact that many third-party stakeholders such as building societies, banks, surveyors, and local authorities are working at reduced capacity or home working means there is an increased load on those who remain working.  We at Goughs are fully staffed and working from the office so will do all we can to ensure a swift transaction taking into account the position of the third parties we engage with.

What are searches?

When you are buying a property, we will request a pack of searches for you.  This include: -

Local Authority Search - this provides us with lots of information including the planning history for the property, confirmation as to whether the road is maintained at council expense, whether the property is listed or in a conservation area and whether there is a compulsory purchase order or any outstanding charges.

Water and Drainage Search – this confirms whether the property is connected to the mains for foul and surface water, if there is a surface water drainage charge, are there any drains or sewers within the boundary of the property, the location of any water meter and a water analysis.

Environmental Search – this confirms whether the property is likely to be affected by contamination issues.  It also tells us if there are any natural subsidence issues, potential flooding, radon or energy features such as wind turbines or solar farms

There are other specific searches we can carry out depending on the location of the property you are buying.  This list is not exhaustive but could include coal mining, tin mining, Cheshire brine, chancel repair etc.

Why do searches take so long?

The Covid pandemic has affected the service levels offered by the local authorities who provide our local searches.  Reduced staffing levels, local restrictions and home working coupled with the upsurge in the market is leading to increasing delays in search results being made available.

Donna Linden - Residential Property Practitioner

For more information on moving home during a pandemic, please contact Donna Linden on the below details, or click here to get a quote for conveyancing fees today. - 01249 450064