In a pivotal move by the UK government to gradually restart both the housing market and the economy, buyers and renters across England are now able to move house once again.
Estate agents can reopen their offices, physical viewings of properties can be carried out, conveyancers can conduct property inspections and removal firms can offer their services. All of which is likely to come as welcome news to the estimated 450,000 buyers and renters, for whom their intended relocations were put on hold when lockdown was enforced.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has emphasised the point that all existing safety and social distancing rules must be obeyed.
“Our clear plan will enable people to move home safely, covering each aspect of the sales and letting process, from viewings to removals,” he said.
“This critical industry can now safely move forward, and those waiting patiently to move can now do so.”
For the time being, however, no such relaxations have been brought into force in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales. Lockdown rules and regulations remain unchanged, making physical viewings, property valuations and most estate agent office consultations impossible.
A Bounce Back to Strength Ahead?
Some of the more conservative economists and real estate specialists see something of a gradual return to stability over many months and years to come. For others, the effects of lockdown will do little other than encourage a raft of would-be movers across the UK to relocate to new properties and locations.
“Few things are more likely to make people want to move than being cooped up in the same four walls for weeks on end, and property portals have seen traffic increase by up to a fifth,” commented Jonathan Hopper of Garrington Property Finders.
Mr Hopper’s sentiments are echoed by many experts across the industry, who believe that a potential avalanche of pent-up demand among both renters and buyers alike is about to be released.
Social Distancing Measures Remain Mandatory
Exactly how the logistics of the whole thing will work remains to be seen, with Public Health England having advised that all current social distancing measures remain mandatory for those involved. This means remaining at least two metres from those you come into contact with and self-isolating for the appropriate period upon experiencing even minor Covid-19 symptoms.
This is likely to cause complications with conveyancing and property visits, which often take place when the current occupants or tenants are still at home.
Either way, the gradual reopening of the housing sector represents the forward movement estate agents have been waiting for, given the estimated £82bn of housing transactions put on hold during lockdown.