A second national lockdown is upon us. With the government making it clear that the housing market is open for business, we explain what the restrictions mean for you.

Coronavirus: Get the latest property news and information

Prime minister Boris Johnson has won parliamentary approval for a second lockdown in England.

From Thursday 5 November until at least Wednesday 2 December, England is under tough new coronavirus restrictions, with many similarities to the lockdown imposed in March.

Lockdown 2, as it has been dubbed, will last for four weeks but ministers have refused to rule out an extension if the rate of infection doesn’t come down.

However, housing secretary Robert Jenrick has stressed that the property market can continue to operate while following Covid safety guidance.

You are allowed to do the following:

  • Visit estate or letting agents, developer sales offices or show homes

  • View homes to buy or rent

  • Prepare a home to move into

  • Move home

  • Visit a home to prepare it for sale or rent.

What does lockdown 2 mean for the property market?  

Although more of us will be working from home and movement is restricted, the English housing market is still open for business.

Gráinne Gilmore, our head of research, explains: “This lockdown is different from that of earlier in the year. Robert Jenrick, the housing secretary, made this clear within hours of Saturday's announcement, when he said that the housing market will ‘remain open’ during lockdown, so home moves can continue. 

“Most agents are well prepared to continue to work remotely should they need to, given the experience between March and May. Likewise, conveyancers and mortgage lenders will be able to shift back to home working quite smoothly, so hopefully sales progression will continue.”

Lockdown 2 and the property market - your questions answered

1. Can I move house during lockdown?

Yes.

Home removals, van hire and other services related to moving house will still operate during lockdown.

However, home-movers and sellers are expected to follow social distancing guidelines and to follow best practices as closely as possible to ensure moving home is as Covid-19 secure as possible.

This includes wearing masks and gloves and having as few people inside a property as possible at any time.

If one of those involved with a home move becomes ill with Covid-19 during the moving process or has to self-isolate, then all parties must be contacted and the move postponed until it can be safely carried out and those who were ill have recovered.

2. Are estate agents open?

The advice from the government is that estate agents are allowed to stay open at branch level.

This means you can still visit your local estate agent during lockdown, but you must follow Covid-secure guidelines such as wearing a mask and sanitising your hands.

While the majority of agents are likely to stay open, and viewings and other services continue to operate as normal, some agencies have chosen to ask staff to work from home. In such cases, estate agents can be contacted over the phone or via their website or email.

Agents also have ways to support much of the sales process virtually with many agents now offering virtual viewings and tours as a first step. Additionally, for homeowners considering selling agents have tools to start the valuation process digitally as well.

Mark Hayward, chief executive, NAEA Propertymark said: “It is vital that agents continue taking all necessary steps to reduce the spread of coronavirus, working in accordance with government and Propertymark guidelines, so the market can continue moving for the entirety of the second lockdown period.”

3. Can I still go view properties in person? 

Yes, you can still view potential homes in person.

The new rules state that you can visit estate and letting agents, developer sales offices, show homes and go on viewings during this second lockdown.

However, your estate agent may arrange for your initial viewing to be conducted virtually, with only subsequent visits happening in person.  

During in-person home viewings, all parties (that means homeowners, prospective buyers and estate agents) must follow Covid-19 safety guidelines.

A socially distanced viewing essentially means as few people should be in the property as possible (perhaps the owners would like to go out for their daily exercise?) and estate agents may not enter the property with prospective buyers.

The number of prospective buyers allowed to enter the property may also be limited.

Anyone entering the property should wear a mask, sanitize their hands and efforts should be made before and after viewings to wipe down door handles and other common areas.

Find out more in our guide to socially distanced viewings.

Either way, you can still arrange virtual viewings of any property you are interested in by contacting the selling agents.

4. How do virtual property viewings work?

The types of virtual viewing available vary between different estate agents.

Some use 3D cameras that enable house-hunters to take a self-guided tour around a property on their PC or smartphone - from standing at the kitchen sink and looking out of the window, to measuring the size of wardrobes in the bedroom.

In other cases, especially if a property is unoccupied, agents may take their own videos as they walk around it or during a video call with the home-hunters.

Some agents also offer virtual appointments where they talk potential buyers through a virtual viewing as they would if they were at the property in person.

Read more about virtual viewings.

5. Can I put my house on the market during lockdown? 

Yes, you can.  

The new rules allow people to visit a property to get it ready for sale or rent. 

It means that securing a valuation from an estate agent, having photographs taken for marketing purposes, drawing up floorplans and Energy Performance Certificates can all take place. 

And there’s no reason for your home not to be advertised on the agent’s website and property portals, such as Zoopla.

6. Can my friends or family help me move?

Unless you live together as part of the same household, the answer is no- except in circumstances where it is “absolutely necessary”.

Friends and family who don’t live together cannot mix indoors or outdoors under the new guidelines unless one of you is a single person household and you have formed a support bubble.

If you are reliant on friends or family to move, you should work with your conveyancer and estate agency to try and move the completion or rental move-in date to a time after the lockdown has lifted.

The government guidance states: “People outside your household or support bubble should not help with moving house unless absolutely necessary.”

7. Can I use moving services?

Removal firms are expected to honour existing commitments where the home move can be done safely and the date cannot be changed.

They will follow social distancing guidelines and expect the same consideration from home-movers.

8. Will conveyancing continue during lockdown? 

Conveyancers will continue to support the sale of properties during lockdown.

They will also help sellers and buyers wishing to change their completion and moving dates until after lockdown.

9. What happens if I’m due to exchange and/or complete during lockdown?

During the lockdown earlier this year, government advice stated that if you could not push back the timings of your home move, then it could go ahead. It added that efforts should be made (with the help of your conveyancer, estate agent and any other members of the property chain) to undertake completion after lockdown if possible. 

The government has confirmed that exchange and completions can go ahead during the second lockdown period.

10. What happens if I’m struggling to pay my mortgage? 

With incomes threatened by another lockdown, it’s understandable that people may start to struggle to pay their mortgages.

During the last lockdown banks and the government worked together to support homeowners in difficulties, for example by offering mortgage payment holidays.

The government’s mortgage holiday scheme for homeowners and landlords affected by the coronavirus pandemic has now been extended. More details below.

11. Will there be a new mortgage payment holiday to help during lockdown?

Yes.

Following the announcement about lockdown two, mortgage payment holidays are being extended for homeowners adversely financially affected by the pandemic.

Borrowers in England who have not yet had a mortgage payment holiday can request a halt on mortgage payments from their bank for up to six months.

Those who have already deferred payments can extend their mortgage holiday until they reach the six-month limit.

A mortgage payment holiday means repayments are deferred for a specific period, for example three months. During this time, a homeowner will not have to pay anything, but interest will continue to accrue and will be added to the total amount that is owed.

By October 2020, industry figures showed that 162,000 mortgage payment deferrals were in place, down from a peak of 1.8m in June.


Use the mortgage payment holiday calculator below, powered by mortgageholiday.co.uk, to see how your monthly payments may be affected by a holiday, and to find out how to apply:


12. What happens if I’m struggling to pay my rent?

One in four private renters said they were worried about how they will pay their rent as a result of the pandemic - and that was before the latest restrictions were introduced

It is important to talk to your landlord as soon as possible if you're struggling to pay your rent. 

If you can still afford to pay some of your rent, ask your landlord if they would accept a reduced payment for a period of time, particularly if you think you will be able to make up the shortfall once your finances have recovered.

As part of new national lockdown measures, the government has announced that the furlough scheme that had been due to end on 31 October will be extended until 2 December.

It would also be worth checking to see if there are any government benefits available to you. 

If you already claim Universal Credit or housing benefit, you may be able to get discretionary housing payment through your local council. This is a system that allows rent benefit payments to be paid directly to landlords.

13. I’m a tenant. Can l be evicted during lockdown?

In response to the first lockdown, the government introduced a blanket eviction ban to protect tenants who fell into rental arrears during the pandemic.

While it’s not yet clear if another national eviction ban will come into effect, the government has already asked bailiffs not to evict tenants living in regions of England which currently come under tier three (very high alert) coronavirus restrictions.

Currently, landlords must give tenants at least six months notice of eviction except in cases where tenants have breached antisocial behaviour or multi-occupancy rules.

It’s always a good idea to know your rights as a renter, read our guide on rental rights for more information.

If you are homeless, check the latest information on emergency housing.

14. I’m a landlord. Can I evict tenants during lockdown?

During the March lockdown the government introduced a blanket evictions ban for all landlords and tenants.

It’s not yet clear whether the same rules will be in place during the new national lockdown.

It’s likely that courts in England will still sit during the lockdown and will prioritise eviction cases involving anti-social behaviour, crime and extreme rental arrears. 

The government recently reached an agreement with bailiffs that tenants living under the highest-tiered coronavirus measures would not be evicted while those restrictions are in place.

While the eviction ban imposed during the first lockdown lifted in September, bailiffs have agreed not to evict tenants living under tier two or three restrictions.

Currently, only the most serious circumstances (such as evidence of domestic violence, or antisocial behaviour) enable landlords to evict tenants without giving six months’ notice.

In October the government also announced a Christmas grace period for evictions, meaning that no tenants can be evicted between 11 December 2020 and 11 January 2021.

15. Will the stamp duty holiday be extended?

The stamp duty holiday announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in July - in a bid to reinvigorate the property market following the first lockdown - is due to expire on 31 March 2021.

Some people are questioning whether it will be extended to give people more time to take advantage of the tax break which will save the average buyer around £4,500.

Gráinne Gilmore explains:  “There is likely to be increased demand for an extension to the stamp duty holiday deadline so potential buyers do not lose out because of this second lockdown.”

While no-one knows whether an extension will be granted by Mr Sunak, you can check out our latest guide on how to beat the stamp duty holiday deadline.

16. Will Help to Buy be extended?

The government has ruled out an extension to the Help to Buy scheme.

The initiative enables people to purchase a new build property with just a 5% deposit, which the government tops up with a 20% five-year interest-free equity loan.

However, the Help to Buy equity loan can only be used for new-build properties bought before 31 March 2021 - a date that was pushed back by the government in July this year.

Despite calls for a further extension, the housing minister Christopher Pincher ruled out any further deadline changes.

“The government recognises that there have been delays caused by Covid-19," Pincher said. "That is why on 31 July a two-month extension was announced to the building completion deadline from 31 December 2020 to 28 February 2021.

“The legal completion deadline for the purchase remains 31 March 2021. The government also announced an extra measure to protect existing customers who have experienced severe delays as a result of coronavirus.

“Homes England, who administer Help to Buy, will work with those who had a reservation in place before 30 June to assess their situation and look to provide an extension where necessary. In which case, they will have until 31 May 2021 to legally complete.

“We believe these measures provide sufficient time for developers to build out homes delayed by Covid-19 and protect customers whose purchases have been significantly delayed."

The government is relaunching the scheme but only for first-time buyers in a slightly different form next year.

17. Can building work continue during lockdown?

Yes.

The government guidance confirms that home repairs and maintenance can continue. 

This means tradespeople such as builders, plumbers, electricians, roofers and other services can enter your home to perform work scheduled during lockdown or to respond to any emergency work that arises, such as a water leak or boiler problem.

The government has published guidance on working in other people’s homes safely, and how to mitigate the risks. This includes social distancing, limiting numbers, and wearing personal protective equipment such as masks.

House building can continue to take place in line with public health guidance. Construction and other site workers can go to work, but that care should be taken to respect social distancing in the workplace. 

The Federation of Master Builders has also published guidance for workers here.

18. Are garden centres and open during lockdown?

Yes.

Garden centres are exempt from closure as essential retail services.

You can buy tools, plants or seeds and other items from your local garden centre.

This is different from the last lockdown, which saw garden centre closures. They were among the first shops to re-open during the first lockdown.

All non-essential retailers, such as clothing shops, and all hospitality businesses will be closed until 2 December.

19. Are DIY shops open during lockdown?

Yes.

Hardware stores such as B&Q and Homebase will remain open during the second lockdown period.

20. What does lockdown 2 mean for house prices?

Following the first 2020 lockdown, the property market bounced back remarkably quickly, with a combination of pent up demand and the stamp duty holiday fuelling rising house prices.

It also led many of us to re-evaluate the homes we live in and whether they meet our needs.

This has led to a buying surge in many rural regions, with homehunters’ priorities shifting towards homes with gardens, and the rise of home working leading to a demand for home offices.

It’s too early to say what will happen to the market in December and beyond, but you can read the latest from our Research and Insight team here.

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The information and data in this article was correct at the time of publishing and every attempt is made to ensure its accuracy. However, it may now be out of date or superseded. Zoopla Ltd and its group companies make no representation or warranty of any kind regarding the content of this article and accept no responsibility or liability for any decisions made by the reader based on the information and/or data shown here.
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