The property market has mostly reopened after the covid-19 lockdown. The government announced on May 13 that buyers and tenants in England could view properties and move, with Northern Ireland following suit on June 15. Scotland held out for a while longer and relaxed the rules on June 29, while Wales said that moves could only be completed if the property had been left vacant for 72 hours minimum.
Estate agents can market occupied properties, but there are no in-person viewings allowed. There should be a Welsh government review in mid-July.
Can people move?
Buyers and sellers can move home, as well as view properties and market their own. Estate agents can visit properties to value them and to take photos and videos. The government has advised, however, that house-hunters do as much as possible online to reduce the risk of virus transmission.
How are estate agents affected?
Agents can open branches as long as they can abide by covid-19 workplace safety rules. Estate agents should only allow people to come into them by appointment and then only if no-one in the client’s household is showing symptoms. Virtual viewings are ideal, with in-person viewings allowed only if someone is seriously considering making an offer.
Open-house viewings aren’t permitted and agents can’t drive clients to properties.
How will viewings be conducted?
Viewings should be appointment-only and during the viewing, the agent and prospective buyer should wash hands and observe social distancing, as well as wear masks if possible. The current tenants or owners should leave the property if possible and upon their return, clean surfaces, door handles and so on.
Lots of conveyancing work can be done remotely, so a lot of conveyancers and property solicitors have been able to carry on as usual. Contracts, however, need to be made a bit more flexible so that any delays due to the virus are accommodated and understood.
Surveyors can resume surveys as long as they don’t enter any properties in which a household member is isolating or showing symptoms. Inspections should also be by appointment only, with only one surveyor visiting at a time. Social distancing is expected and sellers should minimise contact while allowing the surveyor access to all parts of the property. Lots of banks and lenders are offering automated valuations so that they can carry on processing valuations.
Removal companies can still work, but there are some guidelines. Movers need to contact removal companies as soon as possible in advance of the move and they should also do as much of the packing themselves as they can.
Movers also need to open all the internal doors and observe social distancing, as well as offer hand sanitiser and hand-washing facilities. Ideally, removals companies should use a buddy system so that the same people work together all the time. If a household member is isolating or showing symptoms, the removals company must delay the move.