On Monday 15th June, the Northern Ireland property market reopened after 11 weeks in lockdown.
Homeowners are now able to market their property; buyers have the option to view their potential new home and conveyancers and removals firms are restarting their businesses.
However, this is not a return to normality and those involved in the moving process will have to adapt their practices in order to adhere to government guidelines.
Within this guide to moving home during the Coronavirus outbreak, you will find advice and guidelines from the government which will help to ensure a safe return to the property market.
In this guide, you will find information across six sections:
A guide to moving home during the Coronavirus outbreak in Northern Ireland
As the Northern Ireland property market restarts, house-hunters will have the opportunity to view their dream home. However, property viewings will be different from what we are used to. The below points highlight what changes to expect.
- Initial viewings should be carried out virtually. Only if a buyer is considering purchasing the house should a physical viewing be undertaken.
- Physical viewings should be limited to members of the same household.
- If children are attending the viewing, you should try and stop them from touches surfaces and wash / sanitise their hands regularly.
- When physically viewing a property, you should also refrain from touching any surfaces, wash your hands regularly and bring your own hand sanitiser.
- When entering a property, wear a mask that covers your mouth and nose.
- No open house viewings should take place.
- Everyone involved in the house moving process should adhere to the social distancing regulations.
- If you are worried about the spread of infection, speak with the estate agent in advance who may be able to put extra safety measures in place.
- It is important during this time to remain patient. With no open house viewings, it may take longer to secure a property viewing.
Preparing to buy a property
You are now permitted to put your house on the market and search for your dream home. However, some processes and procedures will be done differently from what we are used to.
- You should undertake the majority of your property search online, this includes viewing a property virtually and only attending physical house viewings if you are seriously considering buying the property.
- Estate agents, photographers, videographers and Energy Performance Assessors can visit in order to help market your home.
- You can contact your solicitor who will be able to assist you in collating all the required documents to purchase a property.
- If you wish to buy a new build property, you can contact the developer. You should be able to view the show home or visit the plot of land that you are interested in buying however, an appointment system should be in place.
Making an offer
Buyers are now free to make an offer as normal.
- The purchaser may want to send in tradespeople to carry out inspections. These inspections should be carried out with only one person visiting the property at any time.
- If anyone is displaying Coronavirus symptoms, then all parties may need to delay the house move. If needed, your solicitor can advise you and help to ensure that all contracts and building agreements are as flexible as possible to accommodate this risk.
Property searches and surveys
Surveyors can now undertake surveys. There are no restrictions on the types of surveys that can be carried out and it is advised to speak with a professional to see which type of survey is most appropriate.
- Inspections should take place by appointment only.
- When organising an inspection, surveyors need to be sure that no one in the property falls in the ‘at risk’ category, a vulnerable group or are shielding. Before undertaking an inspection, they will also need to know if anyone has had or is currently suffering from COVID-19 symptoms, has not yet completed a period of household isolation or is awaiting test results.
- A surveyor can visit plots that you wish to buy and complete valuations to support the release of stage payment mortgages.
Agreeing to move
Once you have agreed to move home by entering into a binding contract, you have entered into a legal agreement.
However, all parties are encouraged to be as flexible as possible and be prepared to delay the move if any of the individuals involved are showing Coronavirus symptoms. If there are a chain of transactions involved, you may need to be more flexible with your completion date.
It is recommended to contact your solicitor and keep them up to date with the latest developments in the house move.
Moving your belongings
Removals firms are allowed to operate; however, they may need to alter their usual procedures to ensure that the move is done safely and within the guidelines.
- Buyers are encouraged to contact their removal firms as early as possible. This will allow the company to make the necessary changes to their processes.
- Your household should aim to do as much of the packing as possible. This will help to reduce the spread of the Coronavirus.
- If you are unable to pack your items, you are encouraged to clean your possessions with standard domestic cleaning products before they are handled by others.
- Whilst the removal company is in your home, it is advised to open all internal doors. This will ensure that visitors in your home do not touch any surfaces. You can also open the windows to help boost ventilation.
- Stick to the social distancing guidelines.
- Do not provide refreshments.
- Do provide hand washing facilities with separate towels / paper towels that can be washed / disposed of after.
Further information and guidance regarding moving home during the Coronavirus outbreak can be found on the Department for Communities website.
During this unprecedented time, it is important to stay up-to-date with all the latest guidance and advice from the Northern Ireland Executive.
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