The property market might be on hold, but now is a great time to lay the groundwork for moving home later this year.
Here, we’ve put together our top six tips on what movers can do to get ahead of the game during the lockdown, from getting your finances ready to preparing your home for sale.
1) Don’t get carried away by house prices
It’s difficult to say exactly what’s going to happen to house prices in the short term, but the key message is not to panic.
As the number of sales drops, house price data will become more volatile – which might result in some scary headlines about prices crashing.
Try not to pay too much attention to these. It’s true that the property market dips during periods of uncertainty, but in the medium and long term it tends to make a full recovery.
Indeed, the estate agency Knight Frank has predicted that prices could fall by 3% this year, but then bounce back by 5% in 2021.
While it’s hard to determine for how long house prices could be affected by coronavirus, it’s far more likely we’ll see single-digit drops like those above, rather than a full-scale crash.
- Find out more: what effect will coronavirus have on house prices?
2) Get your finances in order
If you’re thinking of taking out a mortgage later this year, now is a great time to give your finances a spring clean and check everything is up to date on your credit report.
Take a look at all of your household bills, from your phone bill to your car insurance, and assess whether you could make savings.
Perhaps you’ve come to the end of an introductory term and reverted onto a higher rate, or a policy has auto-renewed without you noticing.
A full assessment of your outgoings could save you a lot of money, which could perhaps boost your deposit a little more or help pay for some of the costs of moving.
By analysing your credit report, you can get a full view of any debts that you’re paying off, and also check whether any errors or out-of-date information have affected your score.
- Find out more: how to boost your chances of getting a mortgage in 2020
3) Look into your mortgage options
But despite this, rates on both two and five-year fixes remain very low. As shown in the graph below, average rates have fallen steadily over the past 12 months.
How much can I borrow?
Mortgage offers are generally valid for up to six months, but there’s no need to rush in.
The best deals aren’t disappearing and, when the market springs back to life, lenders will be seeking to entice customers with low rates.
Instead, take some time to find out what you might be able to borrow. Lenders will generally offer up to four-and-a-half times your annual income, although this can vary.
See whether saving a slightly bigger deposit could allow you to move down a loan-to-value (LTV) band. For example, rates on 90% LTV mortgages can be as much as 1% cheaper than 95% deals.
When the time is right, consider taking advice on your options from a whole-of-market mortgage broker.
- Find out more: how much can you borrow calculator
4) Research the market
Whether you’ve narrowed down your property search to a few streets or a few towns, it’s always helpful to get to grips with what’s happening in the market.
You can find out how much people have spent on homes in a specific street or postcode by using the Land Registry’s ‘price paid’ tool.
It can also be useful to look at what’s been listed on property portals.
Rightmove’s ‘market info’ tab on listings lets you view nearby properties that are under offer or sold, and each Zoopla listing shows when a property was put on the market, whether it’s been reduced and how much by.
If you’re still deciding between several areas, check out our guide to finding the best place to live and compare towns using our area comparison tool.
- Find out more: area comparison tool
5) Spruce up your current home
If you’re looking to sell later this year, you’ll need to get your home in a fit state to entice buyers.
For some, that might mean a bit of a declutter and touching up some paintwork, but for others it could mean a much more significant DIY job or getting the contractors in (after the lockdown ends, of course).
Try and view your home impartially and consider whether you’re making the most of the space. Take a look at homes on property portals and discuss what you think works and doesn’t work.
Preparing your home for sale is important, but for now, focus on smaller improvements and don’t spend huge sums of money in an attempt to add value.
After all, that new bathroom suite might not make a big difference in a sale, and worse still, the buyer may decide it’s not to their taste.
- Find out more: home improvement reviews
6) Calculate the cost of moving
Take some time to estimate the overall costs of moving home and see where you might be able to find a reputable professional who will offer you a good deal.
Knowing which professionals you’re going to use could be very helpful if that ideal property appears on the market sooner than you expected.
One of the biggest costs of moving is stamp duty. Use our stamp duty calculator to find out how much you might need to pay.
- Find out more: the cost of moving home tops £10,000
Which? coronavirus advice
Experts from across Which? have been compiling the key advice you need to stay safe and make sure you’re not left out of pocket.
- Coronavirus: what it means for mortgages, savings, credit cards and banking
- Coronavirus: how you can protect yourself
- Coronavirus: how to protect your pensions and investments
- Coronavirus scams: how to spot them and stop them
You can keep up to date with our latest advice on the coronavirus outbreak over on our coronavirus news and advice section.