The government has issued its more detailed plan for the easing of the Coronavirus lockdown which, many estate agents will be disappointed to hear, does not give the green light for non-essential retail businesses to reopen.
Revealed in a document published at lunchtime, the 60-page file reiterates Boris Johnson’s position that non-essential retail, a sector which estate agents are included within at the moment, will only be able to open in a phased manner from June 1st.
This is the time when the property industry might be given preferential treatment and be put near the front of the queue for re-opening but this is far from guaranteed, and will depend on the government’s plan working over the next 20 days.
David Cox, Chief Executive of ARLA Propertymark (left), says he has been lobbying government hard in recent days for clarification about how and when letting agents can restart appraisals and viewings, and complete check-outs and executive inventories, but says the government has so far not been able to say when guidance will be available.
“This latest guidance remains very general and does not deal with the specific needs of the property industry, but we are aware the vacuum that this leaves agents in, and rest assured we are trying to seek clarity,” he says.
Nick Leeming, Chairman of Jackson-Stops, comments: “It is disappointing that Boris Johnson’s announcement today is so vague. Undoubtedly it will not just be the property industry who is unsure on whether they can return to work on Wednesday or whether they do indeed need to wait until the 1st June, or even longer.
Dominic Agace, Chief Executive of Winkworth, says “The agents at Winkworth are continuing to work from home and are using virtual viewings and video appraisals to keep business moving. However, the key to keeping the second-hand and new build homes markets active is for banks to allow valuers to go back to work to allow mortgages to progress. This could be done with strict social distancing, hygiene and wearing of masks and other protective clothing rules in place. The Government needs to consider this as a priority.”
York agency Indigo Green was typical of many smaller agents yesterday who found both the Sunday and Monday announcements baffling, particularly as Propertymark has said it won’t offer advice to the industry until after the government gives it more detailed advice.
“Are we expected or allowed to do viewings at properties from tomorrow? Or are we carrying on the same? We’ve had people asking for viewings and so far it’s been a case of “wait until after Sunday’s announcement,” the company said on its Twitter account.
But in order to open on or after June 1st, estate agents will have to modify their working practices, branches and offices to comply with COVID-19 guidance that will be published later this week.
As we reported recently, this is to include a ban on hot desking, screens between work stations, separate in and out doors, all surfaces disinfected regularly, in-branch and appraisal/viewings staff separated and protective equipment to be supplied to staff.