It’s back to work today for England’s estate agents and the housing market - but it’s the start of a new era of social distancing, face masks and other safety measures.
The news came through last night that - somewhat bizarrely - an amendment to Coronavirus travel regulations suddenly meant that from midnight it was no longer illegal to travel to or from estate and lettings agencies, and properties for sale and to let. The new freedom applies to property professionals, buyers, sellers, tenants and landlords.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick says removal companies, conveyancers and estate agents can restart work with immediate effect.
“Our clear 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” Jenrick says.
According to data analytics firm TwentyCI the number of properties in the system that have both a Sale Agreed and have Searches Ordered is 163,000.
If the total value of these properties is added together, based on the current or last advertised price, the total property value is over £55 billion - a huge injection to the British economy.
In addition to those 163,000 properties, there are a further 155,000 properties with Sales Agreed that have not yet had Searches Ordered.
However, agents will today be rushing to make their branches ‘Covid-safe’.
“It is vital that the sector continues to ensure that they act within a responsible and safe manner ensuring that government health guidelines are adhered to at all times” explains Iain McKenzie of the Guild of Property Professionals.
Most estates agents have the tech tools, processes and services in place to carry out the home buying process virtually through means of video viewings and valuations, and electronic contracts and documentation” he adds.
Dominic Agace, chief executive of Winkworth’s franchise agency, says: "We have a socially distanced work environment plan to manage the business and can implement it quickly to ensure that we can go back to full operations. This will enable our customers to move on to the next stage in their lives, releasing the anxieties caused by the lockdown.”
From the portal world, Zoopla has been the first to comment.
“We’re delighted that the government has recognised the need to restart the property market, permitting estate agents to operate - within the parameters of common sense social distancing. Now is the time to get the market moving and to restore it to full health" explains Andy Marshall, chief commercial officer.
“With 373,000 transactions held up in the pipeline, amounting to £82 billion in property value and £1 billion of agent revenue, the government’s move is set to be a catalyst for the broader economy. The multiplier effect of estate agency will stimulate cashflow for a network of industries, from removal firms to decorators to solicitors, benefiting the economy at both a local and national level.”