Britain’s housing market set to reopen – what does this mean for you?

13 May 2020

The Government has loosened the lockdown rules around property sales


The Government has begun to restart the housing market with new rules that relax the coronavirus lockdown restrictions on property viewings.

Under regulations coming in on Wednesday, renters and buyers will be able to move as long as they observe social distancing rules.

In England people can now freely view residential properties, visit estate or letting agents, move home and prepare a residential property to move in to.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick says: “This critical industry can now safely move forward, and those waiting patiently to move can now do so.”

The housing market has effectively been frozen for the past seven weeks after the Government introduced lockdown restrictions to help reduce the spread of coronavirus.

People were banned from viewing properties and only allowed to move home if it was “reasonably necessary”.

Estate agents and surveyors were not allowed to visit houses, leaving determined buyers with no choice but to look online.

However, many people have put off making offers until they can physically view properties.

What is the impact on the housing market?

Research from Zoopla shows that around 373,000 housing transactions were put on hold during the lockdown – amounting to £82 billion in sales.

The lockdown has had a huge impact on the economy with millions of people losing their jobs or being furloughed.

As a result, lenders have also been pulling loans available to borrowers with small deposits as they are seen as riskier.

This has had a huge impact on the first-time buyer market where buyers would typically take out loans with a 90% or 95% loan-to-value.

Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, says: “The property market re-opening is a positive news for a number of different parts of the economy - estate agents, solicitors, mortgage brokers, removals.

“There is huge pent-up demand and once people can view properties safely we expect to see a sharp spike in activity levels.”

Will you be able to view properties?

It has been estimated that 450,000 people had potential house moves put on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The rule changes mean buyers and renters can view properties and complete transactions as long as they observe social distancing rules.

Are estate agents open?

Estate agents have been closed since the lockdown was announced. The Government has now allowed them to reopen their offices.

However, this does not mean they will be necessarily be open straight away. Estate agent will have to plan how to safely return their employees to work and carry out viewings.

Can you get your property valued?

Conveyancers have been given the all clear by the Government to restart their businesses. 

Surveyors will now be allowed to enter homes to do physical valuations again as long as they maintain a distance of two metres from other people.

Can you move house?

Removal firms can also return to business but they will have to practice social distancing.

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