Now that the property market is open for business again, your moving plans can get back on track. Demand from buyers has been up right across the country, with enquiries to estate agents and visitor numbers to the property portals almost at where they were before lockdown began. And now that in-person viewings are back on the cards, there should be a gradual return to normal – albeit one of a different kind.
The housing market is one of the most important sectors in the UK and global economy and, in recognition of this, the Government has eased restrictions for the estate agency industry ahead of other sectors. While that’s excellent news for anyone wishing to move home, it’s important to remember that Coronavirus hasn’t gone away and that’s why the Government and Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) have issued wide ranging restrictions and guidance.
So this week’s blog is all about giving you a clear picture of exactly how to prepare your property for viewings; how we’ll be carrying out viewings and valuations; and how the moving process can move forward from this point.
All of us here are working to ensure everyone’s safety, both at the office and when out on appointments. Observing the new regulations will help us keep the famous ‘R’ number (the rate of infections) down to below 1, which should keep the property market open. It goes without saying that nobody with coronavirus should be moving home, leaving their property or accepting visitors.
PREPARING FOR MARKET
Estate agents can now visit you in your property once more to advise you on price, presentation and getting ready to move. We can also arrange for photographs to be taken; energy assessors can inspect your home and issue your Energy Performance Certificate; and tradespeople are allowed to carry out any maintenance or cosmetic works.
For all visits, social distancing should be practiced, keeping a minimum of 2 metres distance between you and any visitors as well as ensuring that everyone entering your home immediately washes their hands.
Every viewer will be strongly encouraged to view properties virtually in the first instance, and only to visit in person once they feel they are likely to make an offer on that property. Virtual viewings can give home hunters a comprehensive impression of a property and can take many forms, from pre-recorded videos, to individual tours and even virtual open houses using Facebook Live. We’ll work with you to figure out the best solution that fits your personal preferences and situation.
These are the restrictions, regulations and guidelines around physical viewings to ensure everyone’s safety.
1) To reduce the risk of transmission, please open all internal doors and turn on any necessary lighting before a viewing begins to minimise the need for estate agents and viewers to make contact with any surfaces. The Government’s advice is that you should vacate your property or wait in the garden while viewings take place, but, if that’s not possible, to observe social distancing measures.
Everyone attending a viewing should be able to wash their hands as soon as they enter your property, so please provide access to handwashing facilities and separate towels, preferably disposable paper ones. Although buyers will be encouraged to bring their own hand sanitiser, it’s a wise precaution to provide some at your property in case somebody forgets.
All viewings must be by appointment only and no open houses are permitted.
2) It is not yet a requirement to wear masks or gloves, but, depending on the type of property, it may be necessary to do so. It’s also possible that you or your viewers may wish to use masks.
It is our own policy to wear masks on all appointments and we’ll also encourage viewers to bring their own Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). At the same time, we’ll make sure we have a stock of PPE on hand in case anyone who requires it on the viewing doesn’t have any of their own.
3) Estate agents are required to limit the numbers of viewers entering your property at any one time to a maximum of two adults, both of whom should be from the same household. They are permitted to be accompanied by their children if no other arrangements can be made.
We’ll ask a number of screening questions of anyone wishing to view a property in person to ensure that nobody displaying any of the symptoms of Covid-19 comes to view your property. We’ll also check for symptoms – high temperature, dry cough, upset tummy, etc – at the point of meeting people outside your home.
Viewers will be asked to avoid touching any surfaces as they walk around and we’ll also work to maintain a 2m distance between ourselves and them.
4) All surfaces and door handles should be wiped down after each viewing. For empty properties we’ll take care of everything; where a property is tenanted or owner-occupied it may be a matter of dealing with that on a viewing-by-viewing basis, depending on whether anyone living at the property is in attendance.
AGREEING A SALE
There are no restrictions around agreeing a sale on your home. You can instruct a conveyancer and begin collating all the paperwork in readiness for accepting an offer just as you normally would.
Surveyors and valuers are now permitted to enter properties again, although a number of lenders will issue mortgage offers on some properties through desktop valuations using recent sales data. If a valuer does come to your property, treat their visit as though from a viewer and ensure that all internal doors are open, any necessary lighting is on, and that all areas of your property are accessible.
In case your buyer wants to revisit your home to measure up for furniture and curtains, or if they wish to send in tradespeople to get estimates for works, all the measures in place for in-person viewings should be observed. That includes handwashing, minimising contact with surfaces, keeping all internal doors open and practicing social distancing.
We strongly advise maintaining whatever flexibility you can in your moving plans – in your mindset as well as in your dates – and to ensure the sales contract is worded to allow for possible changes to the completion date after exchange of contracts takes place. This will protect you from being in breach of contract in case the Covid-19 situation takes a turn for the worse and lockdown restrictions are tightened again, or if someone from your household or the chain falls ill with coronavirus.
To enable you to book your removals company as soon as you exchange contracts, start gathering quotes while the conveyancing process is underway so you can lock in your date.
It’s recommended that your packing is done by you and your household. If that’s not possible, speak to different removal companies about other options. Thoroughly clean any of your belongings that won’t be going into boxes and that will be handled by people outside of your household.
Although we know you’d love to make the removals team continuous cups of tea, that’s unfortunately a no-go at the moment. But you should definitely provide them with handwashing facilities and towels, again preferably disposable paper ones: see if you can find a recycled variety to remove some of the eco guilt!
Follow the viewings procedure around social distancing and access by opening all internal doors and keeping at least 2 metres apart from any of the removers wherever possible.
We know there’s a lot in here, but most of the steps are fairly small and can make a huge difference in keeping everyone moving. Nonetheless, if you have any questions or concerns about viewings at your property or moving home during this particularly strange time, please pick up the phone or drop us a message. We’re here to support you and help in any way we can.