Home movers will need to follow ‘stringent’ guidance as housing market reopens

Home movers and estate agents are faced with perhaps the biggest ever change in how properties are marketed and viewed as England’s housing market reopens for business, according to an expert.

Estate agents and other housing market professionals said they are ready to help England’s housing market spring back into life.

And, in a sign of pent-up market demand starting to be released, property website Rightmove reported a 45% surge in online viewings on Wednesday.

But the experience of buying and selling a home is likely to be very different for many to “normal” times – meaning people and property professionals will need to be flexible and prepared to alter plans if they cannot keep to social distancing rules.

Government guidelines indicate more of the process will take place online and some – or all – moves may still need to be paused to limit the spread of coronavirus.

People wanting to sell their home will need to make sure they are out of their property while viewings take place and buyers and sellers should expect to delay moves if someone involved gets Covid-19.

And they should not expect to move into any home where people have coronavirus or are self-isolating.

Rightmove saw a 45% increase in visits to its website on Wednesday morning compared with Tuesday morning.

Its housing market expert Miles Shipside said: “Home movers and estate agents are faced with perhaps the biggest ever change in the way that houses are marketed, viewed and surveyed.”

Mr Shipside added: “These guidelines are understandably stringent as they are there for everyone’s safety.

“All parties will have to be innovative to work within these guidelines where practical, and put safety first in any grey areas that are not covered by the guidelines. Technological solutions will not suit every situation or every individual so there will need to be workarounds which still comply with strict social distancing.”

Key aspects of the housing market are now permitted to take place in England – unlocking billions of pounds-worth of transactions which were on hold.

Estate agents’ offices can re-open, property viewings are permitted, and other essential parts of the sales and letting process can get going.

According to the Government, more than 450,000 buyers and renters have been unable to progress their plans to move since March.

Guidance published on the Government’s website suggests the experience of buying and selling a home will not return completely to “normal”.

The guidance, for England, says: “The process of finding and moving into a new home will need to be different given those involved in the process will have to adapt practices and procedures to ensure that the risk of spread of coronavirus is reduced as far as possible.

“This will include doing more of the process online, such as virtual initial viewings; vacating your current property whilst other people are shown around; and ensuring your property is thoroughly cleaned before someone else moves in.

“We encourage all parties involved to be as flexible as possible over this period and be prepared to delay moves, for example if someone becomes ill with coronavirus during the moving process or has to self-isolate.”

The guidance also says: “It may also become necessary to pause all home moves for a short period of time to manage the spread of the coronavirus.”

The advice adds that people who have coronavirus or are self-isolating with their family member should not leave their home to either move home, or undertake property viewings.

Lucy Pendleton, property expert at estate agents James Pendleton, said: “We’ve got all the necessary PPE ready to go, and buyers and sellers keen to start viewing straight away.”

She added: “Agents have been desperate to get back to business.”

Marc von Grundherr, director of estate agent Benham and Reeves, said business would need to be resumed “one step at a time and without compromising the health of our staff, our customers and the wider population but with the process of buying or renting now requiring very little face-to-face contact, agents should be able to adapt swiftly to this new working norm”.

Jeremy Raj, national head of residential property at solicitors Irwin Mitchell, said: “We have already been contacted by clients keen to resume where they left off, and we look forward to assisting them in achieving their goals and completing those transactions very soon.”

Charlie Bryant, chief executive at Zoopla, said: “Opening up the housing market is not just great news for home hunters and estate agents. As well as unlocking £82 billion of housing sales stalled in the pipeline, it will provide an all-important boost to the real economy, as housing sales trigger increased spending through builders, tradespeople, removal firms, solicitors and many more.

“Before Covid-19 the housing market was enjoying its strongest start to the year since 2016.”

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