Moving House during Lockdown

Moving House during Lockdown 25 August 2021
Moving house during lockdown

Over the course of the pandemic, the pace of the property market has been a bit like a rollercoaster. At some points, the volume of sales has been frenetic, with agents announcing suburb sales records almost weekly. But there have also been some slower times, particularly during lockdown, where people may be more cautious about their movements and commitments to long term decisions.  

To help anyone who is thinking about selling or moving during lockdown, here are some questions we have been frequently asked by our conveyancing clients. 

Are open homes still taking place? 

Like everything in lockdown, open homes are still taking place, just in a slightly different format. You will need to contact the real estate agent, managing the sale of the property, as to how inspections are taking place for the specific property you want to view. Attendees at open homes will undoubtedly be expected to provide contact details (for contact tracing purposes), wear masks and adhere to social distancing requirements. The good news though is that the current Public Heath Order permits people to leave their home to inspect a property that they are genuinely thinking about moving to. 

How will we engage with you? Don’t we need to sign contracts in person? 

For clients it sometimes seems that the legal industry is a slow to modernize. Even before the 2020 lockdown, we have endeavoured to work with our clients so that their involvement in a conveyancing transaction is undertaken in a way that is convenient for them. We have been registered users of PEXA, the online settlement forum, since its inception. We can arrange for you to electronically sign your contract if you don’t have access to a printer and scanner. We are working remotely but liaising with clients via phone, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, or Facetime, particularly for their verification of identity appointments. For clients who aren’t as comfortable with a computer or device, our phones are still manned so contact us to discuss your options. The bottom line is, we are here to help you, even if our office is closed.  

Selling your house

If you’re thinking of selling…

I want to sell my home, but I wanted to paint it before I list the house with an agent. Can a contractor still do that for me? 

If you are looking to sell (or even lease) your home, a homeowner can arrange for a contractor to attend their property to carry out cleaning, repairs and maintenance.   

So yes, you can arrange for a contractor to attend your property. If you are going to undertake works at the property, we recommend that you consult the Public Health Order that is in place at the time.  We understand that you can also contact Service NSW to clarify this. 

My real estate agent is shut.  How do I get my property listed? 

Whilst the physical office may be shut, your preferred agent and their staff will no doubt be working remotely to ensure that everything is ticking over for their clients. Their phone lines will be manned so if you cannot email them, give them a call to discuss arrangements for marketing and open homes. 

I heard the Newcastle market was recently boosted by Sydney residents. Will I miss out on that portion of the market as Sydneysiders are in lockdown? 

This has been a point of controversy for Novocastrians, but Sydneysiders are still able to leave their house during lockdown to attend open homes, both in and outside Greater Sydney. They must, however, be looking for a home that they are genuinely looking to move to, and obtain a permit from Service NSW to travel outside of Sydney. Even residents from the LGA’s of concern can travel to inspect a property. We are also increasingly seeing buyers’ agents operating in the area, who have been appointed by prospective purchasers, to find a home for them and attend home inspections on their behalf.  

Buying a house

If you’re thinking of buying…

I want to make sure I get a Pest and Build Report done, how does that work? 

All the regular due diligence that would ordinarily take place pre-exchange (or during your cooling off period) will take place, and is permitted to take place. Again, like all thing’s lockdown, this may be a bit slower than normal. The same is true of valuations being undertaken by your bank. This is not news to us in the conveyancing industry and, if necessary, we will negotiate with the vendor’s legal representative to extend your cooling off period to make sure everything is done. 

What happens if we get put in a tighter lockdown and I can’t settle? 

Residents within the LGAs of concern (i.e those Sydneysiders on the tightest lockdown restrictions) are still allowed to move outside of their LGA, provided they have a permit. The government obviously deems it important that we are still allowed to fulfil legal obligations. We are however, including Special Conditions in all our contracts to address this issue for our clients. 

How will I be able to move my stuff?  Are removalists still allowed? 

Yes, removalists are still permitted to assist people who are moving house. We recommend that you contact your preferred removalist promptly to lock in a date and make any queries as to how the process is adapted for the COVID environment. 

I’m looking for an investment property, can I still attend open homes? 

Unfortunately, no. The exemption to attend open homes is limited to people who are genuinely looking to move. However, you may be able to approach a buyer’s agent who can assist you in finding your perfect property. 

If you are looking at selling or buying a property, Contact Us on (02) 4943 3988 to speak to one of our friendly Property Lawyers. We have years of experience helping conveyancing clients throughout the Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and Hunter region.

This blog was written by Senior Associate,
 Liz McIntyre
Liz practises in the areas of Family Law, Wills & Estate Planning,
Deceased Estates, Wills disputes and Conveyancing

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