According to the government, more than 450,000 buyers and renters have struggled to progress their plans to move since the coronavirus lockdown began in March.
However, the way estate agents will now operate will be distinctly different to before lockdown.
The ‘virtual viewings’ that chains and independents have offered to clients online over the past few weeks will still remain in place, but as of today, estate agents in England will be able to also offer face-to-face viewings – although there will be specific social distancing guidelines to follow.
According to the government's guidance for England this includes visiting a property when the occupants are not there and exercising greater flexibility if social distancing rules cannot be observed. Properties will also have to be thoroughly cleaned before someone else moves in.
The guidance also adds that some house moves may need to be staggered if people have had COVID-19 or to limit the spread of coronavirus.
Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, is expected to provide more details later today on how agents will be able to undertake viewings and market appraisals while complying with social distancing regulations.
'Enabling estate agents to arrange viewings will certainly kick-start new transactions and permitting surveyors and valuers to visit properties'
Yet despite this huge sea change in how estate agents market and sell properties, and how people buy them, there is obviously still substantial demand in the market.
According to Rightmove it reported a 45 per cent spike in online viewings this morning compared to yesterday.
Local estate agents have also welcomed the news they can begin working again.
Deborah Richards who owns Madisons Estate Agents in Tunbridge Wells, told the Times: “We were absolutely thrilled to hear on Tuesday evening that viewings, valuations and other activities involved in selling or letting a property could resume, and that our premises could re-open.
“Although we can re-commence viewings, they will be completed under strict rules, as the safety of our staff and clients is of paramount importance."
She went on to say there will be a maximum of just two people from the same household at any viewings and physical visits will only take place if the buyer has already seen a virtual viewing and has 'serious interest in making an offer'.
Ms Richards added that her staff would be employing extra hygiene measures and a two metre distance would be observed.
“Our offices will also only be open by prior appointment, so while it will not quite be business as usual for some time, we welcome returning to the activities that keep the property market open for business.”
Rebecca Swain, head of residential conveyancing at Thomson Snell & Passmore added: “Although the property market never actually ‘stopped’ we are delighted that the government has set out plans to ‘restart’ it by easing the restrictions on moving home.
“Enabling estate agents to arrange viewings will certainly kick-start new transactions and permitting surveyors and valuers to visit properties will mean transactions commenced prior to the restrictions can now progress to exchange.
“With appropriate safety measures in place, removal companies can also resume work, so that completion arrangements can also be made. The exact details of what will be permissible have not yet been published, but it is certainly a much needed boost to the property market.”
This article first appeared in Times of Tunbridge Wells - https://www.timeslocalnews.co.uk/property/estate-agents-reopen-their-doors-but-how-will-it-work