Buying and Selling Property During The Coronavirus Pandemic – Our Experiences

I know alot of people have questions about how the Coronavirus outbreak will affect the housing market. I don’t have any answers for that but I can share our experience as both sellers and buyers of property during the pandemic.

Selling

We listed a property on 4th March 2020. Everything was still fairly normal and we didn’t give much thought on how the outbreak could affect the sale. Over the next week we had 16 viewings, I was only there for a couple of the viewings but I do remember being cautious about shaking hands and people touching things. On March 11th we accepted an offer and agreed a 6 week timeframe for the transaction. We still didn’t really understand how severe the virus was and the impact it would have on the country, or the full world I guess.

On March 23rd Lockdown was announced with the promise of a review in 3 weeks time. We were still fairly hopeful that the sale would be able to go through. Our solicitor and estate agent both seemed fairly confident as well. Since the flat we were selling wasn’t being lived in and the buyer was also buying all the furniture, the sale should have been able to go through whilst still following social distance guidelines.

Then things took a turn for the worse. In the same week we got an email from both our solicitor and estate agent letting us know that they had been furloughed. We were also made aware that the Land Register of Scotland office had been closed and transactions were not able to be completed. The property market had pretty much been put on hold.

We are now working with a new solicitor who has managed to agreed a date of May 29th (just 4 days from now). We are pretty hopeful the sale will go through but holding off celebrating as there is still a chance things will change. We’ll visit the flat this week to clear off the dust, say goodbye and leave a little welcome pack for our first Coorie buyer. Things might have taken a little longer than we expected but things have started moving again and that can only be a good sign.

Buying

Our first project was finished and we were on the hunt for number 2. I found a cute little one bed flat close to where we live that has a ton of potential. It was being sold at auction which was new for us. Honestly, I didn’t know much about buying at auction, apart from watching Homes Under The Hammer. I asked for the legal pack (that’s what they say you should do on the show) and we arranged to attend a viewing.

We viewed the flat on March 12th and decided we were interested. We have a tradition after viewings that we go to a coffee shop, get a cup of tea and share a cake while we de-brief. We don’t talk about the viewing until we have the tea and cake, I’m not sure how this started but I really enjoy it now. It gives us both some time to process things before being influenced by the other. Anyway, this was our first evening viewing and we couldn’t find a coffee shop that was open. Disaster! I thought we were going to have to wait until the next morning to talk about it and I really wanted it. We decided to stop at Morrisons and buy a slice of cake and make tea at home, problem solved. Luckily, we did the sums, made a pros and cons list and decided this was the one for us.

We had viewed a couple of auction properties before but lost out on them as a bid had been accepted before the auction. I really didn’t want to miss out on this one so we decided to use the same tactic. At the viewing I asked the agent what the buyer was likely to accept. We worked out the maximum we were willing to pay for the flat and made an offer. It was accepted! After that I did worry that we could have got it for less at the auction but I guess you’ll never know. We were both comfortable with the price we paid and it meant we didn’t miss out by someone else making an offer or us getting caught in a bidding war at auction.

As I said before, I didn’t know much about buying at auction but here is what I have learned during this transaction. I assume it’s different at each auction house but the one we used had a 28 day transaction time. When your bid is accepted at auction the transaction is pretty much complete. This means that there are no negations or missives to be concluded, you buy the property as seen and inherent any problems it has.

When our solicitor read the legal pack she noticed a clause that meant we would be responsible for any unpaid factors fees. She was able to get a hold of a statement showing all charges back to 1990 but we wouldn’t find out what was outstanding until we officially owned the property. This was a massive worry for us and even made us second guess buying the flat. Luckily, we later found out that there were no outstanding fee’s on the flat! This taught us a huge lesson and l will definitely be asking our lawyer to read any legal documents before signing them in future.

Since we signed a contract stating that the sale would be completed within 28 days we were bound to this and the sale was able to happen.

What’s Next?

I have been reading a lot about the Scottish property market and what expects predict will happen. Most people believe that there will be a ‘slowing down’ of the industry but not a crash. The worst prediction sees property value drop by between 3 – 5% and movement to reduce by around 30%.

Before lockdown things were moving really quickly and I am hoping that our target market should remain relatively stable. Both our previous places have sold to first time buyers and as yet, no first time buyers schemes have been affected.

I know there are huge issues with unemployment and many people are struggling financially at the moment. I in no way underestimate that but I am trying to stay optimistic rather than worrying about something I have no influence over.

We have been working on renovating the auction flat for the past 3 weeks and hope to have it ready for sale when the market opens back up. So, until then we will keep our fingers and toes crossed!

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