Property market in England kickstarts with moving home possible again

The property market in England has been given the go ahead to return to some sort of normality amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement published on the Government website late on 12 May, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick signalled his intention to “re-start the housing market…to enable people to move home safely.”

This was followed on the morning of 13 May by detailed guidance, published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government, on how property buyers, sellers and renters, as well as developers and other industry professionals, could safely re-start the business of transacting on properties in earnest.

OnTheMarket looks at what the announcement means for the property market.

Moving home during lockdown – is it now permitted?

If you are moving within England, then yes.

Robert Jenrick told the House of Commons in a statement on the afternoon of 13 May, “anyone can move anytime and for any reason,” so long as they are not at direct risk of transmitting coronavirus.

This means anyone who has tested positive, has symptoms or who is self-isolating should not move house.

Anyone who is shielding or considered clinically vulnerable to coronavirus is asked to “carefully consider their personal situation and the circumstances of their own move and may wish to seek medical advice before deciding whether to commit to or go ahead with a move.”

Government guidance issued on 26 March had advised that all home moves to occupied properties should be delayed unless it was contractually impossible.

This is still the position of the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, where the coronavirus lockdown is not beginning to be relaxed in the same way as it is in England.

But that guidance has now been superseded for English home movers as the Government looks to encourage the completion of what it says are 450,000 stalled sales transactions.

There are plenty of measures the Government is recommending members of the public take to buy, sell and rent homes safely.

Moving home during lockdown – can viewings go ahead?

In person viewings of occupied properties are now permitted to take place, with a number of caveats.

Chief among these is that, as with home moves, anyone who has tested positive for coronavirus, has symptoms or who is self-isolating, should not host or attend a viewing.

Only members of the same household are allowed to attend physical viewings and no open house events are permitted.

Instructions for cleaning properties before and after viewings have been issued, for example surfaces such as door handles.

Sellers are to vacate the property while the viewing takes place while any agent accompanying those visiting should practise social distancing.

Home viewers should avoid touching surfaces where possible, wash their hands regularly and bring their own hand sanitiser.

Virtual viewings to become the new normal

The Government has “encouraged people to do their property searching online where possible.”

Further to this, the advice is that “initial viewings should be done virtually wherever this is possible.”

Physical viewings “should only be conducted where buyers are seriously considering making an offer on a property.”

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OnTheMarket has introduced a new tool enabling property seekers to filter search results to show only properties where a virtual viewing is available.

This could be either a video or 3D self-directed virtual tour of the property.

OnTheMarket users can also select to ‘show online viewings first’ when hunting for homes if they want to prioritise properties with virtual viewings but not completely rule out those without.

How estate agents are helping make moving home during lockdown possible

Martin Bloxham is Head of Residential Sales at Woodward Estate Agents in Harrow on the Hill.

His team is now arranging, with the consent of vendors, for specialist photographers to visit all the business’ properties listed for sale and create 3D virtual tours.

Martin told OnTheMarket: “Unfortunately we couldn’t get digital tours done before lockdown.

“Today (13 May) is the first day our photographers can go out and create them.

“If you’re going to do anything at all like this you need to do something a lot better than a video slideshow of the existing 2D images.”

As well as creating virtual tours which would-be buyers can take via OnTheMarket, Martin plans to offer ‘accompanied’ virtual tours with an agent.

This involves the agent talking customers through a property virtually by guiding them through the Matterport 3D virtual tour using another platform.

Martin said: “If they say ‘it looks great, we want to buy it’ then we will do our best to organise a physical viewing.”

Are surveyors, conveyancers, tradespeople and removal companies all allowed to visit properties in person?

In England, yes they are, though all must follow guidelines for social distancing and working safely when visiting properties.

The Government’s newly updated advice for moving during the coronavirus outbreak can be read here in full.

OnTheMarket has a dedicated page for coronavirus information and advice.

Content provided by OnTheMarket.com is for information purposes only. Independent and professional advice should be taken before buying, selling, letting or renting property, or buying financial products.

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