Property professionals have welcomed new regulations allowing property viewings and visits to estate and lettings agents from Wednesday in England as the government eases the coronavirus lockdown.
The move is a bid by ministers to help reinvigorate a housing market that has all but ground to a halt during the coronavirus outbreak and could unleash billions of pounds worth of pent up demand.
According to property website Zoopla, around 373,000 property transactions across the UK, with a total value of £82 billion, have been put on hold due to lockdown measures.
While moving house was still allowed under the rules, agents were banned from listing new properties and in-person viewings were forbidden. Agents and landlords were encouraged to do virtual viewings but many house hunters were reluctant to put in an offer before seeing the property in person.
Under amendments to the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) regulations in England, it will be deemed a reasonable excuse to visit estate or letting agents, developer sales offices or show homes, move house or “prepare a residential property to move in”.
Landlord and agent bodies said the move was “great news for consumers and the industry” but urged property professionals to ensure the guidelines were followed for everyone’s safety.
In a joint statement, David Cox, chief executive of ARLA (Association of Residential Letting Agents) Propertymark and Mark Hayward, chief executive of NAEA (National Association of Estate Agents) Propertymark, said: “The new regulations provide clarity to agents and will allow them to deal with pent-up demand from consumers.
It’s also a step to reinvigorating the housing market and will be a boost to the economy.
Safety of course will be paramount, and we would encourage everyone to ensure that they follow government guidelines closely to protect others and themselves”.
Ana Bajri, associate director of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics), said this was a “welcome announcement”. The body would be publishing further guidance for Rics professionals, specifically on physical inspections for mortgage valuations and home surveys, he said.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said the government’s plan “will enable people to move home safely, covering each aspect of the sales and letting process from viewings to removals.
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”.