Back to Work!
An update on the housing market amid Covid-19
Well 12 hours is seemingly a lifetime in this Covid-19 reality we now live in.
I went to bed on Tuesday evening, having read numerous trade body reports following the Prime Ministers announcement on Sunday, fully expecting to be working from home until at least June the 1st.
However the UK Government made some amendments, which came into force yesterday, May 13th, to the Covid-19 restrictions legislation that has a massive impact on our business and industry.
(v) for sub-paragraph (l), substitute— “(l) to undertake any of the following activities in connection with the purchase, sale, letting or rental of a residential property
(i) visiting estate or letting agents, developer sales offices or show homes;
(ii) viewing residential properties to look for a property to buy or rent;
(iii) preparing a residential property to move in;
(iv) moving home;
(v) visiting a residential property to undertake any activities required for the rental or sale of that property;”;
This can be found in full here.
This means that to all intents and purposes our industry is able to work, with social distancing and common sense, normally once again. In practice, as I am sure you will appreciate, ‘normal’ is going to be very far from the reality of the situation.
I have made the decision, in conjunction with my staff, to plan to return to our offices on Monday of next week (May 18th). We have plenty of space in our offices to comply to UK Government Guidance on social distancing. However, I have to take these next days to ensure we have enough hand sanitizer and necessary antibacterial supplies for my staff to work safely, as well as working out procedures for this return, hence the delay until next week – we could have done with more notice than 12 hours from the Government!!
This is obviously great news for our industry and it will be interesting to see the demand we have for those properties that are, or will be becoming, available.
My main area for concern is that of the ability to carry out a viewing safely for my staff, the residents of any tenanted property and of course those wishing to view. The UK Government has provided guidance on this as below;
- We encourage people to do their property searching online wherever possible. Initial viewings should be done virtually wherever this is possible and physical viewings should only be conducted where buyers are seriously considering making an offer on a property.
- To support this, agents may ask home occupiers to conduct virtual viewings. This will help reduce the number of properties people need to visit before finding their future home.
- Viewings should be conducted by appointment only and no open house viewings should take place.
- If your property is being viewed, you should open all the internal doors prior to the viewing, and allow access to handwashing facilities and ideally separate towels/paper towels.
- As most people choose to do, we encourage that you vacate your property whilst viewings are taking place in order to minimise your contact with those not in your household.
- When viewing a property, all parties should wash their hands and avoid touching surfaces where possible. Agents will ask you to restrict the number of people who accompany you on a viewing so that social distancing can be practised, and only those in your immediate household should be there.
- We expect agents to accompany clients on a viewing but follow social distancing rules wherever possible. Where viewings are unaccompanied, agents should make sure viewers and homeowners understand how they should conduct themselves.
- Once the viewing has taken place, the homeowner should ensure surfaces, such as door handles, are cleaned with standard household cleaning products and towels disposed of safely or washed as appropriate.
Some of the above is fairly straight forward and yet other parts pose more questions than they really answer – such as why would we allow applicants to touch taps and sinks etc when we could have a policy of applicants wearing masks and provided gloves and insisting they touch nothing?!
I will be giving this serious consideration in the next days but expect that in reality virtual viewings will be the norm for the foreseeable future and perhaps until an applicant wishes to formally secure a property. The full guidance can be found here;
Finally, as we have done throughout this crisis to date, we will expect all members of staff, contractors, tenants and applicants to abide by UK Government social distancing measures at all times and which can be found here;
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your kind words, patience, empathy and understanding during this global pandemic. I cannot predict the future but this is a very positive step in the UK Residential Lettings industry – and for my staff and my own mental health!!
Stay safe and take care of yourselves and loved ones wherever you are in the World!