The current outbreak of COVID-19 has changed life for everyone. People have had to adapt their plans this year like never before. For some, restrictions and social distancing have meant the cancellation or rescheduling of wedding plans. For others, additional huge life events have also had to be reconsidered. Moving house is certainly one of these things. In this post, I’m going to be looking at moving house during COVID-19. What’s changed, can it still be done and how has the current situation affected your ability to get a mortgage, for example?
If you were planning a move to a new property prior to the pandemic, there are some positives and negatives to examine. Now we’re six months post-initial outbreak, the world has had a little bit of time to adjust to the new way of operating. Whereas before you’d physically go and view a potential new home, online and virtual viewings are now possible.
Current government advice states that safety is paramount for all parties when planning a potential house move. This includes encouraging virtual viewings where available and only permit physical viewings when there’s a strong interest to buy.
These viewings must be conducted safely, with all parties observing social distancing rules, wearing a protective face covering and sanitising hands and surfaces prior to and immediately after entering a prospective property. A lot of this seems like common sense, but it’s important to be aware of the rules and regulations.
So in a nutshell, yes, you can still plan to move home during the current pandemic, but be sure to read and observe all of the guidance.
Moving house during Covid-19
Although this is certainly one of the most challenging times to undertake a house move, it’s not an impossible task. Of course, moving house is not a sensible idea if you’re currently self-isolating and/or pose a risk of transmitting the virus to others. So you must be aware of your own health and wellbeing throughout the moving process.
Be prepared to stop and wait should you notice any signs of infection and need to self-isolate. Even if committed to a moving date in your contract, you must be prepared to delay your house move until you’re out of your self-isolation period. But hopefully, that advice goes without saying.
It’s not all bad news
Many estate agents have adapted their processes so that you can do a virtual video tour of a prospective new home. In some respects, the coronavirus crisis has created a slight mini-boom in the housing market. This is in part due to the government having temporarily cut stamp duty for prospective buyers. That means that if you move house before next April, buyers can save up to £15,000 in tax.
So in fact, although it may seem that the odds are stacked against home movers, it might actually be a good time to consider moving house during COVID-19. This may only be a short-term opportunity though. At some point, the government are likely to reinstate the full stamp duty tax and reduce the coronavirus job support schemes that were put in place earlier in the year. So while it might seem odd, now could be the time to put the wheels of your house move into motion.
Getting a mortgage in the current climate
One thing that all prospective buyers will need to consider is that of getting a mortgage. Although it’s currently much tougher to find a good mortgage deal at the moment, it won’t always be like this. As always, having a larger deposit will greatly improve your chances of getting a good deal on a mortgage. Realistically though, this isn’t the case for many people.
And while average rates may have dropped significantly, the market for first-time buyers is trickier than ever – especially if you’re ones with low deposits. Many lenders took their mortgage deals off the market because of the volatility at the start of the outbreak. As a result, many first-time buyers have been priced out of the market for the time being. So it may be worth re-evaluating if you’re not in a strong position, deposit-wise.
As always, it’s a trade-off between waiting to see if you can save a deposit nearer to 15%, or taking advantage of one of the low-interest rate deals if you can find one. A great tool to help you work out your options is an online mortgage calculator, where you’ll also be able to gather more insight into the current state of the housing market.
Then there’s the impact for those who are now working from home. Many banks and lenders offered mortgage payment breaks to those who’ve been adversely financially affected by coronavirus. The ability to apply for one of these has also been extended up until the end of October, which is great news. If you’ve been furloughed or had your income affected by COVID-19, then it’s important to know what repayment options are available to you.
What if you’re a freelancer or self-employed?
If you’re self-employed, like me, then getting a mortgage can become more challenging. This is because you’ve got to prove you’ve got a reliable source of regular income. But this isn’t impossible. There can be a few more obstacles, but it’s definitely possible!
Make sure that you have plenty of evidence of your income, and that your self-assessment tax returns are all filed and up to date. That way, you’re off to a good start. It might also be worth hiring a professional accountant to make sure you have all of your paperwork sorted prior to applying.
Crucially though, be sure to consider your position carefully before applying for a mortgage as a self-employed person. Are you financially stable enough to guarantee you can meet the repayments? If not, consider waiting until you’re in a stronger position.
What does the future hold?
It’s difficult to predict what’s going to happen over the next few months. Moving house during COVID-19 is certainly a challenge. However, if you’re in a strong position and have calculated your options carefully, then it might be the right time for you. It’s worth shopping around and considering the potential risks and rewards of moving home in the current climate. But if you find the deal of a lifetime, then strike while the iron’s hot. Just be sure to follow all of the advice around safety and preventing the transmission of the virus.
The housing market will inevitably return to a worse state with the economic downturn to come. So perhaps now is a good time to consider making a move. Certainly, before the government starts to draw back the support schemes it initially put in place. Something to consider, at the very least!
Where to get further advice?
I’d love to hear from you if you’ve been affected by the changes to home moving since March. Have you had to put your plans on hold? Or have you gone ahead with moving house during COVID-19? Let me know in the comments. Also, please do share any tips or advice for fellow prospective buyers!
If you’re looking for further guidance, be sure to check out reputable sources of information online. The Money Advice Service is a great place to get started for all things financial, as are my good friends at The Money Shed. Make sure you do plenty of research on your financial options before committing to a move.
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