Posted on Wednesday, May 20, 2020
The property market officially reopened on Wednesday May 13, having been given the go-ahead by government to do so. That said, there are still significant caveats and restrictions in place, and it’s very much the new normal rather than a return to normal.
Estate agents can now reopen their offices (if they wish) and buyers, sellers, landlords and tenants are able to move freely again. Conveyancers, surveyors, removal firms, valuers, mortgage brokers etc, who contribute to the smooth passage of transactions, have also been given the green light to start operating again.
While this is, of course, brilliant to hear for those already in the process of moving before the lockdown was imposed, or those who are thinking about listing or purchasing in the short to medium-term, it won’t be a case of as you were.
The government may have allowed the industry to get back to work, but strict social distancing measures and hygiene protocols must be in place, and there are other major considerations to go alongside this.
Below, we take a look at what the government guidance states and what it means for those moving home.
A whole new world
To ensure social distancing is adhered to as much as possible, agents, buyers and sellers are being told to carry out activity online as much as possible.
The government guidance makes clear that the process of finding and moving into a new home will need to be different for some time, with those involved in the process having to adapt their practices and procedures to make sure that the risk of the spread of Covid-19 is lowered as much as possible.
“This will include doing more of the process online, including virtual initial viewings,” the guidance advises.
The guidelines also encourage people to do the majority of their property searching online. “To support this, agents may ask home occupiers to conduct virtual viewings,” the guidance added.
With regards to new-build property sales, the guidance also states that, where possible, developers should promote virtual viewings.
Similarly, the guidance for the legal professionals who play such a key role in the conveyancing process is that they should aim to undertake as much of their business remotely as is feasible.
In those situations where physical interactions are required, there are several new steps to follow. Viewings and public visits to branches should be on an appointment-only basis, while steps should be taken to avoid contact with clients showing symptoms or those who have been advised to self-isolate.
In these scenarios, buyers and sellers are being asked to come to an amicable arrangement, postponing the transaction to a time when the person or persons are no longer ill, shielding or self-isolating.
Open-house viewings should be avoided completely, the guidance adds, while everyone must maintain the standard two metre distance from others during physical viewings, with face masks and PPE worn as appropriate.
To further reduce contact, buyers must now make their own way to appointments rather than travelling there in an agent’s car.
From a hygiene perspective, hand sanitiser and hand washing facilities must be available at any property being viewed, while ventilation should be increased by opening doors and windows where possible.
Additionally, keys should be cleaned before they are handed over, while agents are also being urged to offer clean paper towels for sellers, buyers and tenants to use during viewings to wash their hands.
The guidance also confirmed that all additional activities within the property rental and sales process may start up again, including surveys, EPC assessments, removals and conveyancing. What’s more, the preparation of homes for sale – including the use of tradespeople to complete this – is now allowed again, as well as visits to future homes to measure up or have building work done prior to moving in.
As above, though, social distancing and hygiene protocols must be followed at all times.
Playing by the rules always
Here at Keys & Lee, we will make sure we follow the new government guidelines to the letter, to ensure keep our clients and staff safe and well at all times.
We will continue to encourage and facilitate virtual viewings and valuations where possible and desirable, while we will also at all times stick to the guidelines on social distancing, hygiene protocols and the other measures outlined by the government to give our clients the peace of mind that they can move home safely.
According to the government, there are around 450,000 house transactions currently in the pipeline – the vast majority of which would have been put on hold by lockdown – and some 300,000 tenancies coming up for renewal. We know there is a lot of pent-up demand in the market and that many people were looking to act decisively once lockdown was eased.
We expect that activity will be fast and furious for a while, but it will of course be a very different market we are operating in. Some things may never return to the old ways, with features such as virtual viewings and valuations playing a more high-profile role moving forward.
As an agent, we – like our counterparts across the country – must find ways of adapting our ways of working to social distancing and work out ways of reassuring our customers that they are safe at all times. Covid-19 will be with us for some time yet, so we need to find ways of evolving with it.
When reopening the property market, the government made clear that it would not be a ‘return to normality’. Caution, restraint and sensible practices are all top of the agenda.
Positively, sentiment has remained high throughout the lockdown period, with various pieces of research suggesting that many buyers and sellers want to act decisively at the earliest available opportunity.
This next period will take some adapting to, and as a result processes may be slower than usual for a short period.
That said, the property market has highlighted in the past its capacity to deal with crises and difficulties in the past, and we are confident it will do so again.
To find out about our current operations, and how we can help you to move safely in and around Romford, please get in touch today.