Probate Estates

Conveyancing Update – 13 May 2020

13 May, 2020 by Darren Rainey

We note with interest that the residential property market in England is being allowed to re-open from today. The NI Executive is clearly taking a more cautious approach given they have now published their “routemap” to recovery without any indicative timeline or dates.

The NI legislation on Covid-19 restrictions have to date closely followed the English model which has now changed from moving house “where necessary” to effectively allowing all normal activities to resume as long as social distancing is observed. We would hope the Executive here will adopt a similarly pragmatic approach as soon as they feel able to do so.

Our experience to date during the coronavirus lockdown has been that the vast majority of clients have put transactions on hold rather than pulling out altogether. So, for those waiting to move, here are a few thoughts on some of the factors they should consider:

  • The Land Registry closure has been one of the main difficulties with the local property market during this time. They have put in place a digital workaround which most mortgage lenders seem to be happy to work with. Given this is not the usual way of securing protection for those lenders we are having to check with them on a case by case basis that they are happy to proceed. As of Monday 11th May those properties registered with Registry of Deeds can be dealt with in the normal fashion. Please feel free to get in touch with us to check with us which applies to your property.
  • Solicitors obtain and exchange various property certificates and searches which provide information held by public bodies about the vendor and the property itself. These are vital to ensure the buyer can sign a contract with full knowledge of a range of planning, building control and other issues which might affect the property or the vendor’s ability to sell it. While the majority of these searches etc. are still coming through the processing times are a lot slower than in usual market conditions.
  • Surveyors have not been able to access properties so if you do not yet have a mortgage offer you should check with your proposed lender if they will be able workaround this. Some banks are willing to use “desktop” valuations but their willingness to do so may even then be linked to you loan-to-value ratio required.
  • If you have already received a mortgage offer check when this is valid to. If the offer has expired or is close to that stage you or your mortgage broker can apply to the lender for an extension. Most are willing to do so.
  • Re-opening of offices for business is only anticipated at Step Three of the NI Executive’s plan. We would not anticipate clients routinely attending our office to sign contracts etc until at least that stage. We have developed ways of dealing with this lack of face to face meetings for the limited number of transactions that have been able to proceed during the lockdown period. It may be one unexpected positive outcome of this crisis that these new remote meeting arrangements will prove to be more convenient for clients in the long term. Again, please do get in touch to discuss these in more detail.

The issues considered above are not an exhaustive list of things to think about but they should give an indication that careful planning will be needed to project target completion dates. We would suggest that, as we move closer to easing of restrictions, clients contact estate agents to start the conversation about when might suit all concerned to complete.

We are still working both remotely and with a skeleton staff in the office. All conveyancing files are up to date with all documentation allocated to cases and as such we are ready to move as soon as you are (once restriction levels permit this of course). Please do get in touch on 02890428600 or via [email protected]

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