Buying a property in lockdown

Buying a property in lockdown

I was so bored during lockdown I did something practical with my Saturday afternoons instead of the usual shouting at the football results.

With the football cancelled, and the ‘improving’ literature I bought to get me through the lockdown not improving my mood, I spent a horrifically sunny Saturday at the end of March researching properties to buy in my price range in London.

Given that the economy was in deep freeze, I did not expect anything immediate to happen as a result of my ‘registering an interest’ in properties.

And sure enough, my torrent of emails was met with a flood of replies stating that due to lockdown, nothing could be done.

Then the phone rang, one agent offered a “virtual viewing” the next day, with no obligation to actually buy the property until a physical viewing had happened.

This was the only agent from more than 20 with whom I registered who offered a virtual viewing option.

As an experience, a virtual viewing can never be the same; while one can see each room, it is hard to visualise the dimensions of each just from an online guide.

Key points

  • Lockdown boredom prompted researching of properties
  • The author found himself buying a property
  • Getting hold of documentation during lockdown was difficult

But perhaps more importantly, one cannot see what the view from the window is like and how near the property is to supermarkets, the station, and schools.

As March gave way to April, the incentives to buy the property started to come in.

Thousands of pounds off the asking price for the new build house, and a £1,000 incentive to help furnish the new place.

With an agreement reached, I had to scurry through deserted lockdown streets to a friend’s house to use a scanner, as providers still insist on wet signatures for some documents, in exchange for reserving the property in April, with a refundable £500 deposit.

During a later discussion with the estate agent, he confirmed that during the 10 weeks of lockdown he “sold” eight properties, though several of these fell through later as some of the potential purchasers were placed on furlough.  

The actual viewing of the property took place about about 10 days after it was first permitted, as the site had to be made ready. 

The viewing happened without the agent being in the room, then a discussion took place with a screen between us.

It did not feel as though any of the physical viewing process was any worse as a result of the social distancing measures than would otherwise have been the case. 

Mortgage broker 

The mortgage broker was friendly and did a very good job of acting as though the pandemic was not really a consideration for anyone to worry about, until it came to dealing with the banks.

They clearly worked off a relatively small panel of potential lenders, and that list narrowed a bit more as some lenders raised the drawbridge.