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Estate agents are open and people can once again move home and view properties

The housing market in England has reopened for business after being shut down in a bid to slow the coronavirus pandemic.

From today, government advice states that estate agents can reopen their offices, potentialbuyers can view properties and people can move home.

Removal companies and other essential elements of the sales and letting process, such as surveyors and conveyancers, can also re-start work right away.

Reopened property market will boost economy 

Charlie Bryant, chief executive of Zoopla, said: “Opening up the housing market is not just great news for home-hunters and estate agents.

“As well as unlocking £82 billion of housing sales stalled in the pipeline, it will provide an all-important boost to the real economy, as housing sales trigger increased spending through builders, tradespeople, removal firms, solicitors and many more.”

He added that before the coronavirus lockdown, the housing market was enjoying its strongest start to the year since 2016.

“By taking these steps, the government will give confidence to buyers, sellers and renters that Britain is reopening for business and they can do their bit to get the economy moving again.”

What does the market reopening mean for buyers?

Zoopla estimates that 373,000 property transactions were stalled due to the government’s lockdown measures.

These can now resume in England, with solicitors and conveyancers allowed to carry out their work as long as they follow social distancing guidelines.

Once a transaction has been completed, buyers will be allowed to move into their new home.

Those who have not yet found a property they want to purchase will be allowed to view homes in person, but they must comply with social distancing guidelines. This means staying two metres apart from whoever’s hosting the viewing.

What if I want to sell my home right now?

Following today’s announcement, estate agents will once again be able to visit your property to conduct an appraisal and take photographs for a listing.

Interested buyers will also be allowed to view your home in person, as long as social distancing guidelines are observed.

Even so, many estate agents are expected to continue to also offer virtual viewings. These have proven popular with buyers during the lockdown period.

What if I want to purchase a new-build home?

Building rates have slowed down as a result of social distancing measures. This has limited the number of people allowed to work on construction sites.

The good news is that in a bid to help construction firms catch up, the government is allowing builders to agree more flexible construction site working hours with their local councils. Showhomes can also reopen.

The government and the Home Builders Federation have launched a new charter to help construction sites operate in line with the latest health and safety guidance.

Coronavirus: Get the latest property news and information

For new sites, developers and local councils will be allowed to publicise planning applications through social media. This is instead of using posters and leaflets and should speed up the process.

There will also be support for smaller developers, such as allowing them to defer payments to local councils to help ease cash flow pressures.

All of these measures should help the construction of new homes get back on track. This is particularly important for people planning to purchase a home through the government’s Help to Buyscheme.

What does the market reopening mean for estate agents?

The halting of the property market was set to cost estate agents £1 billion in lost commission.

Now that the market is restarting and stalled transactions going through, they should be able to start recouping some of this revenue.

Andy Marshall, chief commercial officer at Zoopla, said: “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.”

He added that Zoopla had two payment plans to help estate agents. For at least the next five months, agents who subscribed to one of these offers would be able to rebuild their revenue pipeline without shelling out on a portal.

“We welcome the opportunity to discuss plan options with any agents who have not signed up,” he said.

Families can move into new homes if done safely

Housing Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said: 

“I know this has been a difficult time, with some families unable to move and feeling stuck in homes no longer suitable for them.

“Now we are past the peak of the virus we are now able to safely adapt some of the restrictions so that from today anyone in England can now move home as long as this is done safely. 

“I thank everyone visiting Zoopla for their patience over the last few weeks and ask them to follow the public health advice as they search for their new home."

Top three takeaways

  • The housing market in England has reopened for business after being shut down in a bid to slow the coronavirus pandemic
  • From today, estate agents can reopen their offices, potential buyers can view properties and people can move home
  • Removal companies and other essential elements of the sales and letting process, such as surveyors and conveyancers, can also re-start work with immediate effect

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