It’s been reported that the government is talking with banks and building societies about putting the housing market ‘on ice’ during the virus crisis to avoid a crash and to allow financial institutions to offer mortgages.
Today's Financial Times says UK Finance - the trade body representing mortgage lenders - has told members: “UK Finance has been seeking urgent clarification from the government about whether home purchases should continue at the current time, particularly as physical property valuations are no longer possible.” One suggestion is that offers of mortgages in principle could extend to six months rather than three.
The FT story follows growing concern yesterday that many mortgage lenders were withdrawing their products or severely restricting access to them; this was thought to be because valuations were not possible ‘in person’, and because of uncertainty that homes would retain their value over the coming months.
Lloyds Banking Group and Barclays, two of the UK’s biggest lenders, are temporarily pulling many of their mortgages. Lloyds has stopped offering mortgages or remortgages through brokers unless the customer has a deposit of at least 40 per cent of the value of the property.
Barclays told brokers it would no longer offer mortgages for customers that did not have a deposit of at least 40 per cent, but it will continue to offer remortgaging deals.
Last evening the Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick, took to Twitter to say: “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 on a new move date. If you’re socially isolating or being shielded, it’s especially important to try and delay.”
And this was followed up by tweets from the MHCLG saying: "People should delay moving where possible ... Estate agents must work remotely to support their clients ... If your home is on the market, you shouldn’t let buyers visit your home."
Earlier this week the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government had advised buyers and renters to, if at all possible, delay moving home until the Coronavirus crisis has subsided.
The same guidance also allows tradespeople to continue repairs and maintenance work, “provided that the tradesperson is well and has no symptoms.”
The MHCLG guidance adds: “It will be important to ensure that Public Health England guidelines, including maintaining a two metre distance from any household occupants, are followed to ensure everyone’s safety. “No work should be carried out in any household which is isolating or where an individual is being shielded, unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household, such as emergency plumbing or repairs, and where the tradesperson is willing to do so.”