The government has given the green light to property sales and rentals restarting following a change to the main legislative instrument used to restrict travel during the Coronavirus crisis
Yesterday Parliament published several amendments to the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020.
This includes the addition of five short paragraphs that allow both agents and members of the public to travel to view properties and move home.
Although only a technical change to the Coronavirus law, this effectively re-opens the sales and rental markets.
“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,” say David Cox, Chief Executive of ARLA Propertymark and Mark Hayward, Chief Executive of NAEA Propertymark in a joint statement.
“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.”
The new regulations allow members of the public to visit sales or lettings agencies, developers’ sales offices, show homes, view properties for sale or rent, prepare properties prior to moving in and move home.
Agents are also allowed to visit any rental or sales property to get them ready for sale, which means appraisals, valuations and photography.
Industry reaction so far
Lucy Pendleton, James Pendleton
“It’s a brave new world but the viewings must go on. We’ve got all the necessary PPE ready to go, and buyers and sellers keen to start viewing straight away. We’re just waiting to hear what the government’s detailed guidelines are.
“Agents have been desperate to get back to business, and an explicit mention for the sector in the government’s lockdown strategy on Monday was noticeable by its absence. You could almost hear the collective sigh of relief when news that agents could get back to work trickled out late yesterday afternoon.
“It’s fantastic news that agents aren’t going to have to wait until July to start showing properties properly again, as we will find out sooner rather than later whether some of the more dire predictions for the housing market will come true. In London, we have seen absolutely no sign of the conditions that would normally precipitate a marked fall in prices. We expect a similar picture to be playing out across the country.
“Lack of supply exacerbated by sellers delaying their moves until after the pandemic has eased significantly is going to put a floor under prices, much like it did during the Brexit negotiations. Borrowing rates are extremely low too and that’s going to boost buying power.”
Tom Mundy, COO, Goodlord
“It’s a huge relief to know that property viewings and moves will be permitted once more from this week. The whole industry has been on hold, with demand in the rental market building up as a result, meaning this news will be music to the ears of letting agents and tenants.
“Our Lettings Activity Tracker showed a steady increase in market activity during the first week of May, demonstrating that some of that pent up demand was already beginning to leak out. This announcement therefore comes at the right time.
“Some important questions remain, however, about how we ensure the safety of everyone concerned as we get the industry moving again. We very much hope the Government releases more detailed advice around social distancing and how to protect tenants, prospective tenants, and agents – particularly when it comes to viewings.
“In the meantime, everyone in the industry must use a common sense approach to make things as safe as possible and to offer digital options for all parties wherever practicable.”
Jonathan Hopper, CEO of Garrington Property Finders
“Afterthought or an aftershock? It matters not. The eleventh-hour firing of the starting gun for estate agents will re-energise the property industry.
“For the next few days at least, the new motto for the sector will be ‘education education education’ as agents take a crash course in how to conduct socially distant viewings safely.
“The real question is what sort of market they will find as they pull up their shutters. The lockdown may have halted conventional viewings, but there are plenty of signs that some would-be buyers have used the past six weeks to window shop in earnest.
Andy Marshall, Chief Commercial Officer, Zoopla
“We’re delighted that the Government has recognised the need to restart the property market, permitting estate agents to operate – within the parameters of common sense social distancing. Now is the time to get the market moving and to restore it to full health.
“With 373,000 transactions held up in the pipeline, amounting to £82bn in property value and £1bn of agent revenue, the Government’s move is set to be a catalyst for the broader economy. The multiplier effect of estate agency will stimulate cashflow for a network of industries, from removal firms to decorators to solicitors, benefiting the economy at both a local and national level.
“This is where our two payment plans for agents will come into their own; for at least the next five months, our customers who have subscribed to one of our offers will be able to rebuild their revenue pipeline without a financial outlay for portal use. We welcome the opportunity to discuss plan options with any agents who had not already signed up.”
Iain Mckenzie, CEO of The Guild of Property Professionals
“It is vital that the sector continues to ensure that they act within a responsible and safe manner ensuring that Government health guidelines are adhered to at all times. Most estates agents have the tech tools, processes and services in place to carry out the home buying process virtually through means of video viewings and valuations, and electronic contracts and documentation.
Added to this, The Guild’s compliance offer, Paul Offley, has produced a 6-point return to work safely guide for estate and lettings agents to operate within a safe manner.”
Dominic Agace, Chief Executive of Winkworth
“This is great news. We have a socially distanced work environment plan to manage the business and can implement it quickly to ensure that we can go back to full operations. This will enable our customers to move on to the next stage in their lives, releasing the anxieties caused by the lockdown.”