On Sunday, Boris Johnson revealed the UK government’s “lockdown easing plan”. Some things will be changing from tomorrow, but how will this affect the property sector?
Boris Johnson’s speech at the weekend was unsurprisingly met with a range of reactions from members of parliament, business leaders and members of the public. Much of the criticism pointed to a lack of clarity in the plans, with a number of gaps and uncertainties in the new information. However, the government has stated that more details will soon follow.
On Monday, the government released a paper, titled ‘OUR PLAN TO REBUILD: The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy‘. The document covers what lockdown restrictions will be lifted and when, although it does not go into specifics for many industries. The housing sector, like many others, is awaiting more clarity on how it can continue to operate. Here’s what we know so far.
Will the market reopen on 1st June?
In the government’s new plan, it states that ‘Step Two’ will see a number of changes taking place “no earlier than Monday 1 June”. The changes at this point include reopening “non-essential retail”.
According to Chris Pincher, many aspects of the property sector – such as those related to buying and selling – are included under the definition of retail. We can expect the government to reveal more details on this at a later date, according to its latest statement. However, it seems this could be a key date to note, which is just three weeks away.
Last week, NAEA Propertymark’s chief executive, Mark Hayward, also revealed his predictions on the property market reopening in June.
The latest announcement made no specific mention of changes to property viewings during lockdown. This means that, for the time being, the vast majority will take place remotely, using video technology. Those who are keen to get on with planned purchases can still use this option to “view” properties in advance. The same applies for prospective tenants, where possible.
In Mark Hayward’s seminar on reopening the housing market, he set out a number of likely measures for viewings. This includes viewings lasting no longer than 15 minutes, and PPE being worn at all times. Sellers will also need to wear PPE and disinfect the property before the viewing. Only two adults will be able to view, and open days will not be possible.
However, according to The Negotiator, it is possible that new-build viewings could take place sooner. This is presumably because no one is living in them so it could be done with very minimal human interaction. Again, this could be good news for the construction industry as properties being built can get sales underway.
If a house move can happen while maintaining social distancing rules, then it can technically go ahead. The same rules apply as before, although the government is due to follow up on this.
That means buyers should only proceed with purchases if moving into an empty property. However, people should only go ahead if the move can’t be delayed. Also, “critical” home moves can proceed if absolutely necessary, but everyone must stick to social distancing rules. Home removal firms can honour existing agreements if it is safe and necessary, too.
However, some in the industry argue it is definitely possible to move house while sticking to lockdown rules.
Ed Mead from Viewber says: “Common sense is obviously going to be necessary. Empty properties don’t present a problem and occupied properties can be turned in to empty ones for the duration of a viewing. If sensible social distancing and PPE guidelines are followed there shouldn’t be an issue.