Tenants, landlords, agents, and house buyers all breathed a sigh of relief on Halloween when the government announced that home moves can go ahead despite the latest lockdown across England.
Unlike in March, when the entire housing market briefly shuddered to a halt, this month will see lets and purchases continue to take place. And while this is good news for a crucial section of the UK economy, the significance of this announcement goes much deeper.
Keeping the property market open and trading will remove a huge slice of potential anxiety from people’s lives. It means the concept of home can be protected, sought, and secured this winter. Because having a safe and secure home over the coming months will mean more than potentially ever before.
People from all walks of life will benefit from this news. For example, students in their first and second years of university - those young people who have already been through the ringer in recent months - are right now looking to confirm their student accommodation for the next academic year. Making sure they can find and finalise their home will provide a light at the end of the tunnel and prevent a mad scramble for housing in the new year.
For other renters, the last eight months have triggered the need for new housing, or prompted them to put down roots in new locations. These shifting needs of the UK’s 20 million renters must not be overlooked.
Whether it’s more affordable rent, outdoor space, or a move out of the city; this announcement means tenants have options as many stare down the barrel of an uncertain future, or strive to create a new life for themselves.
With evictions still on hold and tenant situations fluctuating, the ability to seek out new tenancies will also be a relief to landlords anxious about covering their mortgage costs.
Had the market once again been put on ice, tenants struggling with arrears but with no way of moving on would have compounded a rapidly growing debt problem which is set to leave the courts in 2021 drowning in a backlog of evictions and rental disputes.
Likewise, first-time buyers and those looking to take advantage of the stamp duty holiday will be able to move forward with their purchases, their dream of home ownership still within reach. For those already in the process of buying or selling, having the rug pulled from under them this close to Christmas would have had wide-ranging repercussions; for the families looking to move in or move on, as well as for the estate agents, mortgage brokers, and surveyors who have been working around the clock to process house purchasers ahead of the March stamp duty deadline.
Of course, the whole industry has a responsibility to ensure that tenancies, sales, and moves can go ahead safely in the coming weeks. Failure to do so would jeopardise the fact that the industry can continue to operate. The fact that the industry has increasingly embraced technology over recent years is ensuring things can keep moving safely: from virtual viewings and paperless contracts, to automated tenancy renewals and facial recognition software.
By minimising in-person contact and increasing the role of such technology, letting agents can help families and individuals across the country find the homes they need, or secure their current living arrangements, as we head into winter.
This year has been fraught for the whole housing market - characterised by a long period of limbo followed by frenzied activity across lettings and sales. Our responsibility now is to keep the ship steady through the uncertainty of the coming months and keep the sector open for business.
*William Reeve is CEO of Goodlord