Property market is back in business from TODAY
As a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, along with many other areas of our lives, there will be a ‘new normal’ following guidance that will be issued this morning, when estate agents and letting agents get back to the business of valuing homes and facilitating viewings on properties which are for sale and for let. In a joint statement, David Cox, Chief Executive of ARLA Propertymark and Mark Hayward, Chief Executive of NAEA Propertymark said: “It’s great news for consumers and the industry that the housing market is being opened up and people can let, rent, buy and sell properties again.”
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“The new regulations provide clarity to agents and will allow them to deal with pent up demand from consumers.
“It’s also a step to reinvigorating the housing market and will be a boost to the economy.
“Safety of course will be paramount, and we would encourage everyone to ensure that they follow Government guidelines closely to protect others and themselves.”
Likewise, Surveyors will also be able to return to work over the next few days, another crucial development that will enable many currently delayed transactions awaiting a property survey or valuation to proceed.
Ana Bajri, Associate Director of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors confirms: “RICS has been working closely with Government and industry to get the market up and running while ensuring everyone who is involved in it is safe and secure, so this is a welcome announcement.”
Ana continues: “We have contributed to current Government advice, and over the coming days we will publish further practical guidance to support RICS professionals who play a critical role in the housing sector, specifically on physical inspections for mortgage valuations and home surveys.”
Getting the UK property market moving again is one of the quickest ways to re-start the economy, both in terms of Stamp Duty income for the Treasury, but also the positive knock-on effect on the wider economy that hundreds of thousands of home moves have every year on related household spending.
This ‘trickle down’ consumer spending helps to boost businesses and in turn, helps to create and safeguard jobs.
What’s also become abundantly clear over the lockdown period is that, providing their employment and income is secure, many prospective buyers haven’t been deterred from their plans to purchase this year.
Estate agents and new home builders up and down the UK have reported that they have still been managing transactions through the exchange and completion process remotely throughout the lockdown period, with some buyers putting in offers on properties that they’ve only viewed virtually via video tours.
For the most part at least, consumer confidence in bricks and mortar appears to have been maintained, and with an estimated 300,000 residential property transactions in the system and yet to exchange, the signs are that the market will hopefully pick up from where it left off in late March.
As of this morning, it’s expected that viewings on properties which are currently inhabited will be limited to one a day, and all occupants must vacate the property for the entire duration of the visit by the prospective buyers or renters and estate agent.
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Prospective purchasers and tenants may be issued with disposable PPE and hand sanitiser and asked not to touch anything in the property while they are being shown around.
It’s likely that only two people from the same household will be able to view the property at the same time, in addition to the estate agent who will be showing them around.
In accordance with other social distancing measures, all parties will be required to maintain a distance of two metres at all times.
In order to facilitate ‘contactless viewings’, it’s also anticipated that the seller, landlord or their agent will need to clean and sanitise all surfaces, including hard floors, work surfaces, cupboard doors, door handles and light switches and leave all internal doors and cupboard doors open and all lights on throughout the property, so that the buyer or renter doesn’t have to touch anything as they move from room to room.
Given the level of effort this will involve before every viewing, it’s not entirely surprising that estate agents are expecting that some would-be sellers and landlords may withdraw their home from the market for the foreseeable future, until such drastic measures are no longer required.
Russell Quirk, director of one of the UK’s largest estate agencies Keller Williams observes: “Swift action by the Government on getting the estate agency industry back to work is welcome and, frankly, took some of us by surprise at its speed.
“The focus of agents though, whilst we will all be understandably enthusiastic at being able to undertake viewings and valuations face-to-face once again, is to ensure the safety of agency staff and the public. Regardless of any directives on procedure forthcoming from Whitehall, one hopes that common sense will prevail in ensuring the appropriate use of PPE and social distancing at all times.”
In terms of adopting the required new legislation Russell concludes: “I know we can trust the estate agency profession to do the right thing in adopting sensible measures whilst working hard now to kick-start the property market, vital in helping to bolster the wider economy at this challenging time.”
Of course, all of this does mean very positive news indeed for those who have had put their moves on hold over the past few weeks, as there’s now a good possibility that they will be able to restart and conclude their transactions in the coming weeks and days.
For those yet to successfully secure an offer, however, it also means that for the foreseeable future at least, it’s likely to be far trickier to navigate than ever before. With a lot more cleaning involved.
Follow Louisa on Twitter: @louisafletcher
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