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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Don't give in to buyers wanting viewings, agents told

There’s been a surge in buyers wanting to view properties - but agents must sit on their hands and wait for government clearance.

That’s the advice from NAEA Propertymark overnight as it responds to the frustrating government guidance issued yesterday on how businesses emerge from lockdown.

To the disappointment of some in the industry, the government’s 60-page document which was released yesterday utterly ignored the housing market and agency sector. 

Most analysts felt the nearest business category defined in the document was “non-essential retail” which may open sometime after June 1 so long as safe processes can be agreed. However at the same time the guidance suggests domestic cleaners can visit a home with immediate effect - which could be a loophole for agents to exploit.

A statement from Propertymark last evening says: “Consumers' demand for viewings has increased today with potential buyers across the UK contacting members.”

But it warns that the guidance first set out by the government on March 26 - and explicitly ruling out physical viewings - remains in force and must be adhered to.

There is evidence that the lockdown is being circumnavigated by some agents; within minutes of the government document being publish yesterday afternoon, Estate Agent Today was told of a London agency chain allegedly showing viewers around properties surreptitiously; and in Devon, one agent told EAT that he had allowed a buyer to view a property after the owner stepped out. 

However, the NAEA - although clearly frustrated that recent discussions with government have not led to any date for lifting agents’ lockdown - says the guidance set out over six weeks ago still holds.

“Consumers that are demanding viewings are leads to be nurtured until the point at which a face to face viewing - if that is the final hurdle - can once again be executed safely. This nurturing can involve video viewings and vendors conducting a more amateur viewing by phone around the house, where 360-degree software is not available” continues the association.

And NAEA Propertymark states: “It remains the case that where staff can carry out work from home this is Public Health England’s preference, freeing up space on public transport for those who cannot work remotely. When the time comes, agencies may choose to return staff to branches on a rotational basis combining branch and home-based work to accommodate re-opening with the required social distancing.

“Although Propertymark does not yet know exactly when the Government will allow estate and letting agency premises and auction houses to re-open, business managers must make appropriate preparations within the information that is available now.

“This will vary across premises and companies but key common areas are: arranging sufficient stocks of personal protective equipment and easy to access cleaning products and sanitiser but also considering whether there is sufficient space between work stations and preparation for minimising the hazards of frequently touched areas such as door handles, taps, kitchens, and toilets.”

Meanwhile another omission from the government document has been picked up by the Winkworth franchise chain.

“The key to keeping the second-hand and new build homes markets active is for banks to allow valuers to go back to work to allow mortgages to progress. This could be done with strict social distancing, hygiene and wearing of masks and other protective clothing rules in place. The government needs to consider this as a priority” explains Dominic Agace, chief executive of Winkworth.

  • Mark Hazeldine

    As a property photographer, I find the advice confusing. Supposedly according to the document released today. it is OK for tradespeople to enter homes if they follow the strict guidelines, but according to the web page updated in March, we are still not allowed to enter homes to take interior photographs if the property is occupied. The advice seems very inconsistent.

  • Matt Faizey

    Mark,

    Ask the occupants to leave all doors open, open windows too. Then ask then simply to stay away from you.

    I have had to visit many clients during this period. It has been a learning curve, and not an unpleasant one.

    One pair of gloves per property. Dettol aerosol left on car for my return. Facemask on.

    Its squiffy, its awkward but I am satisfied of the risk management. Avoid touching as much as possible. Upon return to the car spray the gloves, and use the wet gloves to clean pen, clipboard and car key. Gloves off (correctly), off we go.

    As I said on here yesterday, we're being told ' go back to your job if you cannot work from home. Be sensible, take every precaution you can, observe social distancing absolutely as much as possible'.

    At some point we have to have the mental stamina, agility and determination to crack on with managed risk. Fortitude is something we're all going to need to revisit.

    Matt Faizey

    Stop press.
    Over on PIE apparently Jenrick wants housing market to stay 'stayed'.
    So, maybe you shouldn't plan to 'return to work if you can't work from home'

    I'm glad it's clear

    Although if they have as cleaner hand your camera to them as it's safe for them....but not you.....

    All logical.

     
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    Wheres the advice from propertymark? I've received nothing from them; just third party advice - where are you propertymark????

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    The advice from NAEA Propertymark is pretty clear (sent out to members on an email last night) and probably worth following right now.

    Ultimately, we need to be consumer-led, and I doubt the 'normal' volumes of MAs and viewings will occur until the general populus feels safe.

    So, get that PPE kit, think about viewings/MAs on vacant properties, and keep communicating with your customers remotely!

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    I'm sorry guys but even reading your comments, it shows clearly that everyone is interpreting the messages in their own way. Have we been told that we can visit empty properties? What about the reaction from the neighbours (Our Ice cream man got pelted with eggs for daring to venture near peoples properties - brand destruction for Mr Whippy). As I read it you can go back to work (to the office) if you have strict measures in place. However you can't visit properties to conduct MA's or viewings - period! So if you can work from home then work from home. Watch who's allowed to return next after cleaners and Nanny's. Butlers, chauffeurs, maids, gamekeepers. See the trend...??

    Mark Hazeldine

    The gov.uk page dated 26th March aimed at agents says you can't go into occupied properties. That seems to imply that you CAN go into unoccupied ones.

     
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    As an inventory Clerk I've been told that I can carry out inspections without tenants present, handing over keys is done at a distance, so why surveyors and agents cannot work on the same basis is bonkers. The only reservation about viewings I would have is that some potential purchasers are a little light fingered so need keeping an eye on in occupied properties, you are at more risk buying a loaf of bread in my view.

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