Estate agents to reopen as housing market returns

13 May 2020

Restrictions on the property market are being relaxed with new guidance giving the green light to allow a number of transactions, which have been sitting dormant, to go ahead and complete. 

The news should be a welcome relief with figures now being estimated at more than 450,000 buyers and renters being unable to progress their plans to move since March, and transactions worth £82bn being put on hold.

The original legislation prevented people leaving their house without a reasonable excuse and ‘to move house where reasonably necessary’ was deemed to be a reasonable excuse. This excuse has today been amended to allow the following activities:

  • Visiting estate or letting agents as well as developer sales offices and show homes
  • Viewing residential properties to look for a property to buy or rent
  • Preparing a residential property to move in
  • Moving home
  • Visiting a residential property to undertake any activities required for the rental or sale of that property

Most importantly, surveyors can also now visit properties to carry out valuations and allow mortgage applications to proceed. However the guidance has stressed the relaxation of the rules could only work under strict social distancing and other measures designed to combat the virus.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said: "Our step by step plan is based on the latest guidance to ensure the safety and protection of everyone involved. This critical industry can now safely move forward, and those waiting patiently to move can now do so."

Associate in Wilsons’ Residential Property team Kate Penn said: “Our team have received numerous emails and calls before 9.00am today, all relating to pushing matters forward to completion. The next few days will be very busy, managing expectations and processing completions, but we are all now well adapted to working from home and are here to provide the same excellent and personal service as before lockdown."

There is still a long way to go before the housing market is fully functioning and it is likely that some of the new ideas we have seen over the last few weeks (such as virtual viewings) will continue. The government have made it clear that this is not a return to normality and people will need to be flexible, taking into account everyone's personal circumstances. Surveyors and agents will also need to focus on ensuring that the necessary safety measures are in place to protect their staff and clients which is likely to be a slow gradual process. However, this is a really good tentative step in the right direction.

Anyone who would like to read the extensive government guidance on each step of the house moving process, this can be found here.

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