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COVID-19 and the Jersey property market

Is the Jersey property market open for business?

The answer, as of Monday the 11 May 2020, is yes, albeit subject to certain constraints. As well as the continued need to maintain appropriate physical precautions, market forces, and the ability to secure associated lending together with changes in employment circumstances and whether or not salaries have been affected will all have a part to play.

Throughout the lock down period the Royal Court has remained open to enable the completion of ongoing property transactions, though the general public was not able to attend in person and have had to be represented by an Attorney given the stay at home rules. This may have taken some of the theatre and excitement out of such transactions, particularly for first time buyers, but it is a credit to all involved and the excellent facilitatory measures adopted by the Royal Court that sales and purchases have been able to complete as planned. This has not been the case in other jurisdictions, for example in Scotland, where the electronic land registration system was forced to grind to a complete halt. It goes to show that sometimes, the old way is indeed the best way.

The situation has however caused certain transactions to stall, sometimes for legitimate and unavoidable reasons such as necessary self isolation or social distancing measures but in other cases, some have fallen through due to individuals using the situation to their advantage, for example, trying to reduce prices at the last minute. This fortunately does not appear to have been widespread and it is perhaps not surprising that you will always get those who will try to take advantage. In some cases, it has been the associated Lender who has changed its lending criteria due to market forces or withdrawn the offer of loan due to a change in an individual’s financial position. Lenders will also require valuations and it has proved difficult for these to take place due to the Lock Down restrictions in recent times.

The relaxation of the lock down outlined by the authorities on the 11 May will help those involved in the property market to go about their business subject to certain strict guidelines.

Vendors and purchasers alike must be aware that viewings of properties will have to adhere to the dictates of the authorities and should check out with the relevant estate agency how best for viewings to take place and how these should be managed.

In respect of purchasers, before thinking about anything, you should find out from your lender whether it is in a position to lend you the money and on what terms. Your lender will of course take account of the current financial climate and the financial position of the borrower. It may also be a good idea to shop around to get the best deal. It is pointless fixing to view a property if there is no chance of buying it.

As the lock down measures change further then the recovery can be better determined, as can the likely impact of recent events on property prices. That being said, one should always look on the bright side; people will always want to buy and sell houses and climb the property ladder, especially in Jersey. It’s the way we are built. Another consideration will be stock and demand which are very much the drivers in any property market.

We are sure that things will improve but this may take time. It will be essential to make sure that surveyors are able to value and that removal firms are able to move you. These issues could and have caused delays.

From a legal perspective Viberts is very much up and running and open for business. It has been throughout the current crisis, though the majority of the staff have been working remotely. The property team is here should you need us to look after your property needs and requirements including our excellent wills service through our personal law team. It is never too early to enquire and ask the questions that you may have albeit you may be at an early stage in your considerations.

When undertaking prearranged site visits to properties, in most cases we only have to look at the property externally applying the motto “look but don’t touch”.

Getting the appropriate advice now may indeed help you decide what the right way forward is.

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