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What you need to know if you’re planning on selling your house in 2020

There are some things that you need to be aware of if you’re thinking of selling your property right now.

Photograph of a gloved hand holding keys in front of a house

As things change rapidly during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, this guide will be updated regularly to reflect changes in rules and regulations.

Are you allowed to sell your house right now?

Yes, there are no rules stopping you from putting your house on the market while the coronavirus pandemic is ongoing. 

When the government ordered the first lockdown in March, it specified that sales that were in process could continue taking place. But it urged buyers and sellers to adapt and be flexible so that both groups could observe coronavirus safety measures.

Shortly before the second England-wide lockdown began this month, housing secretary Robert Jenrick confirmed that the rules limiting property market activity in place during the first lockdown have been relaxed.

Mr Jenrick said that renters and homeowners will be able to move, with removals firms and estate agents able to operate.

Should you hold off on selling your home this year?

If you were thinking about moving house before the COVID-19 outbreak, you may be wondering if you should hold off putting your home on the market right now.

Putting your property on the market now will certainly be more challenging than usual. You are not allowed visitors to your home at the moment, so organising in-person viewings will be tough.

It won’t be possible for estate agents to come and take photos of your home or arrange market appraisal. Energy Performance Certificate assessors won’t be allowed to visit you either.

Any potential buyers will also face barriers, as it is unlikely that surveyors will be able to come over to examine the property.

However, urgent surveys can be carried out on empty properties or homes where the inhabitants are not at home, as long as surveyors can keep following guidance on social distancing.

If your home is already on the market, you can continue to advertise it for sale, but people cannot come to physically view your property.

But there is nothing stopping you or your estate agent from marketing the property or accepting offers. They may even be able to line up potential buyers to come and physically view your property once ‘stay at home’ rules are eased.

In fact, the number of sales agreed between 16 March 2020 and 22 March 2020 were only 4% lower than a year earlier, according to Zoopla.

Read more about how to sell your house.

Should you keep your home on the market?

If your home was already being marketed when the coronavirus lockdown was introduced, there is no reason why you need to take the ‘For Sale’ sign down.

Your property may attract fewer enquiries right now, but with many potential buyers stuck at home, they can still search for properties online.

Some estate agents are adapting quickly to the situation, with some offering ‘video tours’ of the properties on their books.

Property site Zoopla reports that the number of agreed home sales in August 2020 was up 42% year-on-year

Read more about how to sell your house.

Stamp duty holiday

On 8 July Chancellor Rishi Sunk announced a temporary change to the minimum threshold at which home buyers need to pay stamp duty.

The stamp duty holiday raises the minimum threshold from £125,000 to £500,000 until 31 March, 2021. This means that home buyers will be exempt from paying any stamp duty for the first £500,000 of the value of the property.

This should come as a welcome boost to the housing market and encouraging for those who have properties on sale in this climate as it should help increase demand.

Accepting offers and exchanging contracts

If you do receive an offer, there is nothing stopping you negotiating and accepting it.

But while transactions can continue taking place, each part of the sale process is likely to take longer than usual.

If somebody was in the process of buying your home when the lockdown rules came in, the government says that you can continue with the transaction as normal if the property you’re selling is empty.  

If the property is occupied, then the advice suggests that buyers should delay the exchange of contracts until after the ‘stay at home’ rules are relaxed. 

It may also be worth talking to your solicitor about whether you should include terms in the contract of sale to take account of the risks or delays that could spring up as a result of coronavirus-related disruption. 

Read our guide on 12 things to do before you move house

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