People up and down the country watched with bated breath on Sunday evening as Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, addressed the nation with an update on the current situation with regard to the COVID-19 pandemic. But what’s in store for letting agencies?
The public is desperate to know when things will ‘get back to normal.’ When will we go back to work? When will I be able to see my family? When will schools return?
Not everyone got the answers they wanted to hear, and many were left feeling confused and lacking clarity.
Not so letting agents. Thankfully, the industry is one that has been allowed to resume work with an update to the legislation surrounding coronavirus, provided that certain conditions are met. These all relate to maintaining the social distancing rules and ensuring the personal safety of staff and the public.
This seems to be at odds with previous advice which permitted only essential travel, although it is apparent that the economy needs a kickstart and the housing market as an industry can and will lead the way. The government has devised an unprecedented package of support for business, paying the wages of a quarter of the UK workforce currently, which is costing billions of pounds and isn’t sustainable.
It was also announced earlier in the week that the economy shrank at its fastest rate since the last recession during the first quarter of this year – even before the current pandemic – so there is pressure from all sides on the government to get the economy performing again.
The new exemptions passed by the government allow members of the public to start visiting both sides of the housing market, sales and lettings agencies, as well as developers’ offices and show homes. The rules also extend to viewing properties, preparing properties prior to a house move, and actually moving home.
The move has caused concern from some, with worries that some members of the public who are not serious about moving will ask to view properties and increase the risk of spreading the virus. Thorough cleaning of all surfaces such as door handles will need to take place after all viewings, and the public is asked not to go out if they or any members of their household are showing symptoms of coronavirus.
Agents will also be able to value properties, take photographs, conduct inspections and make other necessary visits to sell a home or agree a tenancy.
Prospective investors will also be allowed to view properties with a view to buying to let.
One question everyone involved in the industry is asking is how much have house prices and rental values fallen since lockdown started. At this stage, there is no hard and fast evidence to explain any changes, so it will be another waiting game.
Organisation will be key to making this new look industry work and property inventory software will be key in keeping on top of all contacts, viewings and the new guidelines on visiting properties such as homeowners waiting outside. There may be as many as 450,000 people who have not been able to make any progress in their house move – buying and renting – since lockdown began at the end of March according to Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick.
There is a growing demand for more clarity on the advice issued this week to support the housing industry, to allay confusion and to ensure that the fear of a second peak does not become reality.
Viewings are the largest grey area now. Until then, many letting agencies feel they are relying on common sense, which allows room for interpretation.
Check out further information and support guidance within our Covid-19 Content Hub.