Govt reopens housing market In England, property viewings allowed

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LONDON: The government is to allow property viewings and visits to estate agents as it attempts to restart the housing market as lockdown measures are eased.  The housing market has nearly ground to a halt in recent weeks, with around £82 billion of transactions on hold.

Under regulations coming into force in England from Wednesday, activities in connection with the purchase, sale, letting or rental of a residential property will be seen as a reasonable excuse to leave home.

According to property website Zoopla, around 373,000 property transactions across the UK have been put on hold due to lockdown measures.

Under previous rules to help limit the spread of Covid-19, moving house where it was reasonably necessary was already deemed a valid excuse for people to be away from home.

But under amendments to the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) regulations in England, a reasonable excuse will now be expanded to include undertaking several activities in connection with the purchase, sale, letting or rental of a residential property.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick

They include:

  • Visiting estate or letting agents, developer sales offices or show homes
  • Viewing residential properties to look for a property to buy or rent
  • Preparing a residential property to move in
  • Moving home
  • Visiting a residential property to undertake any activities required for the rental or sale of that property

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick said the government’s plan “will enable people to move home safely, covering each aspect of the sales and letting process from viewings to removals”.

“Our step-by-step plan is based on the latest guidance to ensure the safety and protection of everyone involved. This critical industry can now safely move forward, and those waiting patiently to move can now do so.”

House hunters have been able to do “virtual viewings” online in recent weeks, but many may have been holding back from putting offers in until they could physically view a property.

Some lenders also recently withdrew low-deposit mortgages from the market amid difficulties in valuing homes during the lockdown, although some new deals have come on to the market since.