As we observed following last years lockdown, interest in the property market hasn’t cooled despite the evolving COVID-19 pandemic. And while lockdown made transactions more challenging to execute, it didn’t turn hopeful homeowners away.
If you are currently looking to buy or sell a house, here’s some helpful information on the options available to you during the current COVID-19 lockdown.
Many settlements may be delayed due to the COVID-19 Alert Level 4 restrictions. It’s important to remember that this time may be stressful for everyone, and property transactions can be stressful at the best of times.
We would offer first the advice to be kind and communicate well throughout your intended transaction. The earlier you can get advice and organise your next steps, the better prepared you’ll be to adapt to the uncertainty in the market.
The COVID-19 website updated their advice for moving, buying and selling your home on 18 August.
AT ALERT LEVEL 4
Everyone must stay home during level 4. The only exceptions for moving house include:
- If you are seeking emergency housing or temporary accommodation; such as for care while unwell or refuge in women’s refuge accommodation, or
- If you have a court order in place for you to do so
While you cannot move during the lockdown, there are a few things to consider if you have an active transaction or want to make an offer.
Most banks, lawyers and real estate agents are working remotely; this means transactions can still progress, but the efficiency of remote working may limit that progress.
Under alert level 4, you cannot conduct any property inspections in-person; this includes your pre-settlement inspections. While there may be options available for virtual inspections, you should discuss this with your lawyer.
If you have signed or received an unconditional offer due for settlement during alert level 4, it is essential that if the transaction involves one or both parties needing to move, then wherever possible, both parties should agree to delay settlement until a change in alert levels.
Many sale and purchase agreements will now include a COVID-19 clause that determines how settlement will be deferred until alert level 3 or 2. You should seek advice from your lawyer to formalise the arrangement and ensure you abide by the requirements.
If your agreement does not include a COVID-19 clause, reaching agreement is your best option. However, it is important to be aware that the other party is under no obligation to agree to defer settlement. It is best to seek advice from your lawyer early to assist you with negotiations. A good lawyer will help you manage this situation with respect for both parties and the current situation.
If there is no need for movement to complete your settlement, e.g., you are selling a house to the current tenants or purchasing a currently vacant holiday home; you may go ahead under alert level 4 without interruption.
If settlement must go ahead during alter level 4, additional remedies may be available to you, which support all parties involved and ensure no violation of the current lockdown rules. Your lawyer will be able to explore these with you in further detail; give us a call today to learn more.
These guidelines are in place to ensure no unnecessary risk of exposure to COVID-19 for our communities. We know that life must still go on, but we all must follow these rules and transact safely.
AT ALERT LEVEL 3
Property sale and purchase looks a little different at alert level 3.
You can now safely buy, sell and move house. At level 3, you can go ahead with your property sale or purchase and undertake all of your due diligence in-person while adhering to the level 3 physical distancing rules, so long as it’s within the same region.
If you are completing settlement on a property in another region, you can only move into that property if the region is at alert level 3 or 2. You’ll need to provide documentation that supports your intentions to travel between regions.
If you have a live offer or conditional agreement, it’s recommended you seek early advice from a lawyer to help you determine what steps or negotiations will be required to help you execute your sale or purchase safely under the current alert level settings.
The helpful addition of a COVID-19 clause on all sale and purchase agreements will ensure better clarity for buyers and sellers in what is already an uncertain and stressful period.
Each case will depend on its specific circumstances; the above outlines some of the key considerations when deciding to settle and how to proceed. We recommend you contact us regarding your options within Alert Levels 4 and 3 and how the alert level setting may affect you.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
For more information on due diligence and pre-purchase inspections, please go to:
- When your dream home turns into a nightmare
- Purchasing Property – Doing your ‘due diligence.’
- Builders Reports – Sellers or purchaser