If you're hoping to move house by Christmas, you have a bit of a task on your hands. House sales have been reported to move slower than usual due to the pandemic, and all aspects of buying a house are being delayed too, from conveyancing to researching the best mortgage rates and actually securing a mortgage.
The government advice to home movers is that flexibility is key, with the move-in date of 22 December (the final day for completions this year) not guaranteed. However, not guaranteed isn't the same as unachievable, and if you really want to move, it's certainly worth your trying. Jacqui Harley, head of residential conveyancing at JMP Solicitors said:
'Following the housing market pause earlier this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are now seeing a huge increase in enquiries and the market is booming. Because of the increase in activity and changes to usual proceedings due to government safety guidelines, the process of moving house could now take longer than usual.
'Be prepared for a different process of buying and selling. It’s also important that if you or a member of the household are vulnerable, this needs to be communicated early in the process, so the necessary safety measures can be implemented and timescales can be accurately predicted.
'Although there are changes to the moving process, it’s still certainly achievable to move before Christmas if you act swiftly.'
These are the main things you should consider if you are set on a Christmas moving-in date.
1. Get the property ready for marketing
Once you've decided that you definitely want to move to a new house before Christmas, you need to prepare it for selling. Houses that are clean, well-presented, and don't have any problems for the new owner to deal with sell quicker, and that's a fact. Don't neglect the loft/basement, either: they're valuable storage spaces that your prospective buyer will want to know are useable.
2. Book surveyors as soon as possible
The next step, of course, is finding the right property to buy. Booking a survey sooner rather than later is crucial to success at this stage, as Jacqui explains:
'Once you have found a property you would like to buy, it’s worth ensuring that you get a decent survey before you commit to any purchase - if the boiler does not work and you’ve already moved in, prepare for an expensive replacement, especially around Christmas time.
'There are currently no restrictions on the types of surveys that can be carried out, but tradespeople must liaise with owners of the property to ensure an appropriate clean has been undertaken before entering the property and must keep to government safety working guidelines whilst in the property.'
3. Be patient and prepared
A lot can happen to cause delays during this pandemic year: further restrictions can be imposed, and if anyone in the property chain tests positive for Covid, timeframes will shift again. You can, however, communicate your wish to move by Christmas to your estate agent and ask to be updated about any changes.
4. Prepare for a different way of viewing
'Current government guidelines state that initial viewings should be done virtually where possible, so be prepared for this when you are looking for a new home. If you are selling your current property, it is likely that you will need to market it virtually – your agent will be able to assist with this and will have the necessary equipment to photograph and video your home for sale.
'The current government advice also states that those selling their home should vacate the property if possible, so try and find somewhere to go while viewings are taking place.'
5. Consider your packing arrangements
Trust us when we say: the further in advance you start packing, the smoother your move will be. It's not fun living on boxes, but you need to start packing at least three weeks before you plan to move. Labelling all your boxes will ensure you don't damage anything in transit or forget a box full of valuables. Finally, make sure to book a removals company well in advance:
'Many removals companies have had to change policies and processes in line with government guidelines, so ensure you prepare in advance to make the packing as safe for everyone as possible.'
6. Don’t forget to tie up loose ends
'Be sure to inform utility companies that you are moving and have all mail forwarded to your new address once you have exchanged contracts. Write your Christmas cards in plenty of time and post with your new address pre-printed inside, this saves time and money on separate letters and messages.'
7. Look after your pets
'Both pets and young children can find moving home very stressful. Whilst animals can be kept safe and secure in a separate room during the unpacking, it is best to see if family or friends can look after children for the day so that they do not get anxious about the moving process and leaving their old home, this way they won’t feel unsettled and can just enjoy the excitement of arriving at their new home.'
For pets, we also recommend using Feliway (for cats) or Adaptil (for dogs) to help them adjust to their new home. Plug it in several days before the big move to reduce stress.