Many buyers either in the process of buying or on the verge of making an offer on a property are currently wondering whether it is possible or advisable to progress towards exchanging contracts at this point of time, given the current disruption.
To answer this, we asked Nicholas Maestri, Head of Property for the luxury asset lawyers Bargate Murray:
“There is no technical reason why you cannot complete a property transaction during this lock-down, provided your solicitors are working.
However, if you are at the stage where you need to exchange contracts you need to be aware of the two main additional risks that the lock-down situation creates: firstly, if your personal income or wealth is adversely affected, this may impact on your eligibility to borrow; secondly, the current lock-down conditions mean that you may not be able to move into the property, or the current occupiers may not be able to move out.
Whilst the first risk is something that you are best placed to assess, there are several clauses available to protect you against the second risk which will mean you will not be liable for damages if you are unable to complete due to COVID-19.
I have clients to whom I have advised to complete the deal and others that I have advised to wait, because it is really down to each individual’s personal circumstances. For instance, for those that are worried about losing a good deal or breaking a chain and have a strong financial position, the risks could be outweighed by the reward, whereas someone that has stretched themselves and find that their earnings are less secure than previously would be advised to wait.
In short, if you do decide you want to go ahead with your purchase, my advice would be to ensure your solicitor advises you of the risks and provided clauses to protect you from those risks as much as possible."