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Agents have “moral obligation” to restrict physical viewings - call

There’s a call this morning for estate and letting agents to regard the physical viewing of any property on sale or to let as the very last resort.

The Guild of Property Professionals says there is now what it calls “a moral obligation” to ensure prospective buyers and tenants go through a virtual viewing first, and only then as a last resort agree to a face-to-face meeting and viewing.

Guild compliance officer Paul Offley says: “While physical viewings may be permitted by the government, given the current circumstances and resurgence of the virus, agents should ensure that physical viewings only take place as the very last step once they have gone through much of the process with potential buyers virtually. 

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“I would go as far as to say that in the current situation with the increased rate of infections, agents have a moral obligation to ensure that all buyers are taken through the process of virtually viewing a property before any face-to-face appointment takes place. 

“Buyers should also consider whether there is a genuine need for the appointment to take place now or consider whether the appointment could be deferred until restrictions are eased.”

Debate has raged this week on whether agents should engage in physical viewings - or perhaps whether they should even work in offices - given the highly infectious nature of the new variants of Coronavirus found originally in Kent and South Africa. 

In a poll of almost 3,000 readers of Estate Agent Today this week, some 40 per cent wanted to be allowed to undertake Covid-safe viewings and to be allowed to work from Covid-secure High Street offices. 

However, 28 per cent want agents not to work at all and effectively wanted the housing market suspended; on top of that, another 22 per cent want agents only to work from home rather than from offices, and not to engage in any viewings whatsoever.  A further seven per cent want agents to work from their offices with appropriate Covid-safe precautions, but want those agents not to undertake any viewings at all.

Paul Offley says the latest lockdowns in England, Scotland and Wales are reminders to the property sector that it is imperative to act within a Covid-secure manner to ensure the safety of both the public and the agents themselves. 

He adds that the robust Covid-secure polices in place within the property sector have been what has kept the industry and people moving.

“With the rate of infections increasing once again due to the highly contagious variant of Covid-19 making its way through the country, now more than ever agents have an obligation to continue to act within a safe manner to ensure that they are protecting the public and doing what they can to minimise the spread of the virus” he says.

“As one of the few sectors that have continued to be able to operate, we need to continue to ensure we are acting according to the prescribed health guidelines to help keep both clients and staff members safe during this wave of the virus” he concludes.

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