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Home buyers told to delay any imminent property moves

By Patrick Daly, PA Political Correspondent

Ministers have urged house buyers to put their imminent property moves on hold during the UK lockdown designed to stem the tide of coronavirus.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said those due to move house should rearrange to a new date and delay the process of changing property.

He said even those scheduled to move on Friday should rethink plans to bring in the removal vans.

The Prime Minister declared this week that all non-essential trips out of the house were forbidden for at least three weeks as the Government looked to slow the spread of Covid-19 and protect the NHS from being overwhelmed by cases.

Mr Jenrick tweeted: “I know that many people across the country are due to move house tomorrow.

“Whilst emergency measures are in place, all parties should do all they can to agree a new move date.

“If you’re socially isolating or being shielded, it’s especially important to try and delay.”

The Cabinet minister’s comments went further than those he had issued only 30 hours before, in which he had urged those whose moves were “unavoidable” to follow social distancing rules.

But, with Mr Jenrick’s latest remarks, the Government effectively appeared to have put the brakes on the UK’s home real estate market.

Lenders on Thursday gave home movers the option to extend their mortgage offer for up to three months to make it easier to shift their move date.

The initiative will be open to customers impacted by Covid-19 who have exchanged contracts.

Stephen Jones, chief executive of UK Finance, said: “Lenders recognise that many people looking to move into their new home are facing significant stress and uncertainty due to the impacts of coronavirus.

“Current social distancing measures mean many house moves will need to be delayed.

“It is clearly not appropriate for people shielding or self-isolating to move home.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has urged homemovers to delay bringing in the removal vans until after the UK lockdown is over (Jonathan Brady/PA)

“Therefore where chains contain people in these groups, lenders, conveyancers and other professionals are working together to enable these customers’ moves to be delayed.

“Where people have already exchanged contracts for house purchases and set dates for completion this is likely to be particularly stressful.

“To support these customers at this time, all mortgage lenders are working to find ways to enable customers who have exchanged contracts to extend their mortgage offer for up to three months to enable them to move at a later date.”

Robin Fieth, chief executive of the Building Societies Association (BSA), said: “A three-month extension of existing mortgage offers seems a fair and reasonable step to take.

“It is possible that some borrowers financial circumstances may change during the three months. If this happens, or the terms of the purchase change we will work closely with the borrower to achieve a sensible outcome.”