Ministers have urged house buyers to put their imminent property moves on hold during the UK lockdown designed to stem the tide of coronavirus.
And people trying to sell their homes have been told to delay it for three months – and not to have any viewings.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said those due to move house should rearrange to a new date and delay the process of changing property.
He said even those scheduled to move on Friday should rethink plans to bring in the removal vans.
The Prime Minister declared this week that all non-essential trips out of the house were forbidden for at least three weeks as the Government looked to slow the spread of Covid-19 and protect the NHS from being overwhelmed by cases.
Mr Jenrick tweeted: “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 a new move date.
“If you’re socially isolating or being shielded, it’s especially important to try and delay.”
The government’s new advice on house moves states: “Given the situation in the UK with regard to the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19), we urge parties involved in home moving to adapt and be flexible to alter their usual processes.
“There is no need to pull out of transactions, but we all need to ensure we are following guidance to stay at home and away from others at all times, including the specific measures for those who are presenting symptoms, self-isolating or shielding. Prioritising the health of individuals and the public must be the priority.
“Where the property being moved into is vacant, then you can continue with this transaction although you should follow the guidance in this document on home removals.
“Where the property is currently occupied, we encourage all parties to do all they can to amicably agree alternative dates to move, for a time when it is likely that stay-at-home measures against coronavirus (COVID-19) will no longer be in place.”
But in a minor concession, the advice goes on: “In the new emergency enforcement powers that the police have been given to respond to coronavirus, there is an exemption for critical home moves, in the event that a new date is unable to be agreed.”
But, with Mr Jenrick’s latest remarks, the Government effectively appeared to have put the brakes on the UK’s home real estate market.
Lenders on Thursday gave home movers the option to extend their mortgage offer for up to three months to make it easier to shift their move date.
The initiative will be open to customers impacted by Covid-19 who have exchanged contracts.
Stephen Jones, chief executive of UK Finance, said: “Lenders recognise that many people looking to move into their new home are facing significant stress and uncertainty due to the impacts of coronavirus.
“Current social distancing measures mean many house moves will need to be delayed.
“It is clearly not appropriate for people shielding or self-isolating to move home.
“Therefore where chains contain people in these groups, lenders, conveyancers and other professionals are working together to enable these customers’ moves to be delayed.
“Where people have already exchanged contracts for house purchases and set dates for completion this is likely to be particularly stressful.
“To support these customers at this time, all mortgage lenders are working to find ways to enable customers who have exchanged contracts to extend their mortgage offer for up to three months to enable them to move at a later date.”
Robin Fieth, chief executive of the Building Societies Association (BSA), said: “A three-month extension of existing mortgage offers seems a fair and reasonable step to take.
“It is possible that some borrowers financial circumstances may change during the three months. If this happens, or the terms of the purchase change we will work closely with the borrower to achieve a sensible outcome.”