The property market kicked back into gear from May 13, with estate agents able to reopen their offices and buyers and sellers (other than those shielding, symptomatic or self-isolating) able to move again.
The news came after a long period of the UK market effectively being shut down, with the government’s strict lockdown measures, introduced on Monday March 23, meaning that only completely essential home moves could take place.
While the lockdown offered many movers more time to get their property prepared for sale and viewings, or to collect all the documentation needed for a successful house move, it was unquestionably a difficult and troubling time for those already some way into their transaction or those who were looking to kickstart the moving process before the pandemic put this on hold.
With lockdown measures now being gradually phased out in a three-point plan, the property market has been able to reopen and buyers and sellers can once again conduct in-person viewings where necessary.
That said, it’s definitely not a case of as you were. Very far from that, in fact. The threat of Covid-19, and a possible second wave, is still very much present, and the health and safety of everyone still very much top priority. This is reflected in a range of new government guidelines which all buyers, sellers and agents must pay attention to.
The market is now operating under a ‘new normal’, but it remains the case that it’s a good time to resume your transaction or kick it into action now.
Below, we outline five key things you need to consider when buying or selling a property in a post-lockdown market.
Agency branches will look different
It’s made crystal clear, under the government’s guidance, that visits to agencies should be on an appointment-only basis. If you must visit an estate agent at their office, you will see various social distancing and hygiene protocols implemented to make sure that staff and visitors are kept safe.
You may find there are limits on how many people can be in the building at any one time, or other similar precautions and measures.
Where viewings take place, they must be on an appointment-only basis, too, with estate agents asked to provide clean paper towels and clean keys before viewings and handovers.
To avoid unnecessary contract, and possible transmission in confined spaces, buyers travelling to properties for viewings must do so on their own, not in their agent’s car. Meanwhile, general communication between agents and their clients must be done remotely as much as possible.
Fortunately, even pre-pandemic, this was typically the case, and can continue with phone or online video calls, messaging and emails, to ensure that visits to branches are only made when absolutely necessary.
The ‘new normal’ is here to stay
Virtual viewings and valuations helped the market to continue functioning even when only critical house moves were allowed, with buyers and sellers using this modern technology to progress their transactions without ever leaving the house.
The success of this alternative way of doing things means many experts are now saying that virtual valuations and viewings will become a vital part of the moving process, with social distancing remaining in place for some time yet.
As lockdown measures are gradually lifted, the government is urging people to continue using virtual viewings and valuations where they can. If you’re selling your home, only conduct viewings with buyers who are serious about your home. If you’re buying a home, only visit properties you have a genuine interest in.
Searching for homes online, already very popular anyway, is also being encouraged by the government. Buyers should use estate agents’ websites and the major property portals to come up with a shortlist of suitable homes.
Social distancing will remain in place
All of us will need to respect and observe social distancing for some time yet, in nearly all areas of life. This includes, of course, the moving process.
The staying two metres apart rule must be adhered to by those organising or attending physical viewings, while open-house viewings are unsurprisingly off the menu for the time being as the government tries to restrict lots of people mixing in the same place all at once.
In-person viewings have a number of other rules in addition to social distancing, including wearing face masks where necessary, making sure hand washing facilities are available, and opening as many doors and windows as possible to limit contact and improve ventilation.
If you are symptomatic or being advised to self-isolate (you may, for example, be in the shielded category for those who are clinically vulnerable), it’s absolutely crucial that you postpone your transaction until a point where it can take place without putting anyone’s health in jeopardy. If you absolutely need to move, extra precautions and guidelines must be in place to ensure everyone is kept safe and well.
If you’re unsure, talk to your agent to get their expert opinion on the manner.
All parts of the market are raring to go
When allowing estate agents to reopen, the government also enabled surveyors, removals firms, valuers and conveyancers to restart their operations. This means, whatever stage of your transaction you were at before lockdown measures were implemented, you should now be able to progress things further.
In addition, Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) assessments and surveys can take place in properties provided social distancing and hygiene protocols are strictly followed. If you require a tradesperson to visit your property to carry out work before a move, this can now happen, too.
Hopefully, the market should quickly return to its pre-pandemic state in terms of transactions going through – although some processes may be slower for a time as everyone adapts to the new environment.
A great time to buy and sell homes
A number of surveys carried out during the lockdown period suggested that sentiment among buyers and sellers remained very positive, with the majority of those polled insisting that they were keen to pick up from where they left off at the earliest possible opportunity.
This means that sellers are likely to have a good pool of buyers picking up their search to target their home towards. They are likely to be eager to make up for lost time, which could encourage faster transactions for
all parties. Buyers, meanwhile, will be glad to see the level of supply growing as sellers relaunch their properties to the market.
We must remember that, before the coronavirus crisis dominated our lives, the market was in good shape thanks to the ‘Boris bounce’ and greater clarity over the future of Brexit. The hope is that the market will recover to its post-pandemic levels over the coming months as life returns to some sense of normality.
Here at Centrick, we will do all we can to help you buy or sell a home while also following the new guidelines to the letter. To find out about our current operations, please get in touch with us today.
If you want to find out how much your home could be worth, check out our instant valuation tool.
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