Q&As for consumers investing and renovating during Coronavirus

publication date: Apr 2, 2020
 | 
author/source: Kate Faulkner, Property Expert and Author of Which? Property Books

Q&As for consumers investing and renovating during Coronavirus

 

The spread of Coronavirus has meant anyone with a property project whether investing or renovating needs to update themselves on the ‘new rules’ so they know what they can and can’t do.

Although much of this guidance is coming into place for stay at home measures, Coronavirus isn’t going to go away for the rest of the year unless a vaccine is created, so it’s important to acknowledge that these measures are likely to be in place for some months and possibly the rest of the year.

With regards to moving home, Government guidance states:
Home buyers and renters should, where possible, delay moving to a new house while measures are in place to fight Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Our advice is that if you have already exchanged contracts and the property is currently occupied then all parties should work together to agree a delay or another way to resolve this matter.


However, they advise people can ‘move house where reasonably necessary’ and if moving into an ‘empty home’ could take place.

As a guide, if you have exchanged on a property then you can complete as long as you can do so within the Government guidelines and ideally the property is empty. It is worth leaving the property empty for 72 hours. 

With regards to renovating a property, this is the Government guidance:
Work carried out in people’s homes, for example by tradespeople carrying out repairs and maintenance, can continue, provided that the tradesperson is well and has no symptoms.

Again, it will be important to ensure that Public Health England guidelines, including maintaining a two-metre distance from any household occupants, are followed to ensure everyone’s safety.

No work should be carried out in any household which is isolating or where an individual is being shielded, unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household, such as emergency plumbing or repairs, and where the tradesperson is willing to do so. In such cases, Public Health England can provide advice to tradespeople and households.

No work should be carried out by a tradesperson who has Coronavirus symptoms, however mild.

Below are our Q&As for investors and renovators, but do contact us if you need a specific question answering.

The Q&As are all based around the additional clear Government guidance to:-

  • Only go outside for food, exercise, health reasons or essential work
  • Stay 2 metres (6ft) away from other people



Some key things to bear in mind:-

  1. Government have stated it is essential to only “move house where reasonably necessary” and “work carried out in people’s homes, for example by tradespeople carrying out repairs and maintenance, can continue, provided that the tradesperson is well and has no symptoms". See Q&As
  2. Viewings are not considered ‘essential’, even on empty homes.
  3. Lenders are currently adjusting their criteria, so the first thing to do is to make sure you can still secure funding, or the funding you have is still safe. Speak to a broker if you are having difficulties
  4. Mortgage lenders are/were inundated in the first few weeks of lockdown, so if you haven’t had any joy contacting them, or have been rejected from help, try again in a week’s time or go to a broker for help. Also update them if your circumstances have changed, eg you have been furloughed, lost a job or become sick as this may affect your ability to fund your investment or renovation
  5. In my view, surveyors are critical for renovators and investors. They can’t during stay at home measures physically value properties or carry out surveys safely on people’s homes during this pandemic. Without their input I personally wouldn’t invest in a property.


Do be aware there is a lot of inaccurate information online, and it’s important to get accurate, up to date information during these rapidly changing times, so if you do have a specific question, please feel free to contact us
.

Please note this is the official Government guidance for people and property during the stay at home measures:- 

Buying and selling, some information on letting

Landlords and tenants

and

Guidance for landlords, tenants and local authorities

Wales has also provided information for tenants, landlords and agents and from Rent Smart Wales

Guidance for Scotland and renting in Northern Ireland and landlord right to rent checks.

Carrying out work on a property eg safety checks or renovations

Cleaning a property 

 

Top 10 Q&As for investors and renovators

Can I buy a property for renovation and to invest in during stay at home measures?
Yes and no! This depends at what stage your purchase is at. If you have exchanged and the property is empty, then you should be able to progress your move, but you must meet the government guidelines of social distancing. If you haven’t exchanged, but have an offer and your financial circumstances haven’t changed, valuations and a physical survey has been carried out, then you could progress to exchange and completion. If you have had an offer accepted and not had valuations or a survey done, all legals and financials can be progressed as far as possible, but I would not advise finalising until the survey/valuation can be carried out.

What if I am in the middle of a renovation? 
This will require a discussion with your tradespeople. On the one hand, the government has agreed that construction work can carry on, but most residential developers have shut their sites down. Government guidance states that:-

"No work should be carried out in any household which is isolating or where an individual is being shielded, unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household, such as emergency plumbing or repairs, and where the tradesperson is willing to do so. In such cases, Public Health England can provide advice to tradespeople and households. And no work should be carried out by a tradesperson who has Coronavirus symptoms, however mild."

However, they also appear to be allowing some renovation work to carry on, the latest government guidance:-

“Work carried out in people’s homes, for example by tradespeople carrying out repairs and maintenance, can continue, provided that the tradesperson is well and has no symptoms. Again, it will be important to ensure that Public Health England guidelines, including maintaining a two metre distance from any household occupants, are followed to ensure everyone’s safety.”

Can I still apply for planning? 
It is certainly possible to put plans together to submit to the planners and “The Government has confirmed that it will introduce legislation to allow council committee meetings to be held virtually for a temporary period, which we expect will allow planning committees to continue".

And
“We recognise that there may be circumstances where a local planning authority is unable to consider a permitted development prior approval application within the deemed consent period. It remains important to prioritise these so important economic activity can continue. In these exceptional circumstances the authority can, if necessary, seek to agree an extended approval date with the applicant.”

Source: Homebuilding

The new legislation, although subject to review, allows council committee meetings to be held virtually until 7th May 2021.

Are building control officers working during stay at home measures?
Yes, but in a different way. Ipswich Borough Council has the best explanation of how officers are working.  Where possible they will work from photographic evidence, but if a site visit is required, they will do some checks to make sure it’s safe for them to visit and check the site.

Can I carry out gas, electrical and other safety checks? 
Yes, but bear in mind that people are getting sick and self-isolating, so it may not be easy to book them in quickly. Here is the advice from Gas Safe, they can still carry out certificate work. Electrical checks still need to be carried out if they can be done within the Government guidelines.

Can I buy materials to carry out work on a property? 
Not in person, but you can online. Most of the large builders merchants have closed and most of the DIY stores closed on 25th March, although you may be able to secure materials online. Other online sites such as Amazon or eBay appear to still be working, but make sure the quality of what you are ordering is good.

What if I have an urgent gas, electrical or a leak? 
If you have an urgent issue, then you can still get this sorted. Firstly, check with your home insurance, many emergency problems could be covered, taking away the worries and fears you have. If you have to pay for it yourself, check the person has the right qualifications, get a quote for the work before you agree to it, make sure you get any required certificates. Here are some of the key organisations to contact:-

Find a Gas Safe Engineer (Gas Safe); Electrician (NAPIT) and/or Plumber (WaterSafe)

Have you the right insurance for your investment or renovation?
Especially if the property is empty, make sure your insurance covers you. Some insurance only covers a property for 30 days, so if you expect it to be empty for longer, check with your insurer and you may have to switch to another policy provider. Otherwise, if you have materials at the property or are doing major works, check you have the right insurance should things get stolen, vandalised and or flooded.

What research can I do if I want to renovate or invest in property?  
The most important thing is to do your research on your numbers. If investing, you need to make sure you buy at a discount as capital growth is not expected to grow as much as it has in the past. You need to make sure you don’t over offer on a property, nor underestimate the cost of renovating it or its final sales price. For many investors and renovators during stay at home measures, this is a perfect time to research sold property price data so you know when a bargain comes up for sale and then research the real cost of hiring tradespeople in your area. Also check how long it would take for them to start as if it takes three months, this could cost you extra money in paying to keep the property going.

Will property prices fall in 2020 due to Coronavirus?
No-one actually knows the answer! This is an event that happens, it appears, once in 100 years. There are however, three pieces of research/analysis that should be useful to help answer this question, worth reading in this order:-

Hometrack
Savills
Resolution Foundation

 

Financing a buy to let -
Coreco
Working with an architect -
Urbanist Architecture
Plumbing checks to make on your home -
WaterSafe
Financing a buy to let checklist Working with an architect checklist Plumbing checks to make on your home checklist

 


All our information is brought to you by Kate Faulkner, author of Which? Property books and one of the UK's top property experts.
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