Fierce debate over the government’s advice on property viewings and home moves has erupted once again after agents in the Somerset town of Weston-super-Mare complained to local authorities about a rival who, they claim, has been conducting viewings.
Two agents, who wish to remain anonymous, approached The Negotiator to claim that Ashley Leahy, who runs an eponymous estate agency in the town, has been seen attending property viewings with potential buyers on several occasions.
Guidance from Propertymark is explicit on the subject, saying: “Under the current public health guidance in-person viewings are not permitted and should be delayed.”
But official guidance is also clear – it says that although people who want to put their properties on the market can proceed, as long as no one visits their home including agents or buyers, and if they receive offers move to exchange of contract.
The grey area is empty or vacant properties – which the official guidance suggests can be visited for viewings and surveys, but it’s not clear whether this is for homes already on the market prior to the lockdown, or new listings.
The Negotiator asked Ashley to comment about the claims. He said: “There have been a few viewings that we have done on vacant properties.
“We have gone to the property in question, opened the door and then let the people go around on their own. This was permitted because I felt that there was absolutely no risk to them or us. I am absolutely certain that other agents in the town have also done this.”
Leahy was reported to North Somerset Borough Council trading standards who earlier this week contacted him to discuss the claims.
“I can confirm that following a complaint we contacted the proprietor of Ashley Leahy Estate Agents and advised him that he shouldn’t be trading,” a spokesperson told The Negotiator.
“We reminded him of the business closure regulations and sent him the current government guidance specific to estate agents.
“He advised us that his business is closed and that he wouldn’t conduct house viewings or on-site valuations until the restrictions are lifted.”
Ashley Leahy Estate Agents operates from a residential address in the town and offers fixed-fee sales starting at £995.