Back to all Blog 07 April 2020

‘Socially distanced’ viewings & digital deals: How the property market could function post-lockdown

We’re starting to get sight of what a post-lockdown property market might look like with strict social distancing measures in place.

Housing minister Christopher Pincher is hosting a Zoom call with the NAEA this week to discuss a “blueprint” for reviving the market from its hibernation, after the trade body set out some provisional new standards for mitigating the risk of coronavirus.

There’s obviously some huge issues to iron out before the country can safely resume buying and selling properties. On average, more than a million homes are traded in the UK each year, which means at least a million buyers, each working with professional support from estate agents, solicitors, conveyancers and mortgage lenders.

Proposals under consideration include limiting viewings to a certain number per day, asking vendors to wait in their gardens during viewings, and requiring potential buyers (and agents) to wear masks and gloves.

Lawyers, conveyancers, estate agents and removal firms have all been consulted on the potential measures, which could also include:

  • A ban on back-to-back viewings
  • Ensuring vendors are out during a tour
  • Checking beforehand and calling off any viewings where anyone living in the property is showing symptoms, however minor
  • Buyers waiting in their cars until they are told they can enter
  • Making sure viewings are “contactless”, by turning on all lights, opening cupboards and doors so buyers or tenants don’t have to touch anything
  • Limiting viewings to two people at any one time
  • Making sure vendors clean their homes before and after every viewing (with communal areas in apartment blocks regularly disinfected)
  • Home valuations to be carried out digitally, except those with a high LTV
  • Lawyers enabling electronic signing and witnessing of mortgage documents

Once finalised, the measures will go over to Public Health England for approval (the whole signing off process is expected to take under two weeks).

The NAEA’s proposals – published last week – are based on what’s been happening in New Zealand and the US, where “controlled” viewings are now being allowed to take place. They read broadly similar to the above, but with a couple of additions;

  • To help with the costs of moving – and support all the other businesses involved in the moving process – the organisation also wants to see a cash incentive loan of £1,500 handed to home buyers on completion, interest-free, which will be registered as a charge on the home.
  • And echoing calls from around the sector, there’s also a request for a six-month holiday on residential transaction taxes, in the hope that this will kickstart consumer confidence and encourage both upsizing and downsizing.

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