Moving house allowed as coronavirus lockdown eases

Housing market to be restarted as house viewings in England are allowed under new measures.

The housing market is set to be restarted as property viewings and visits to estate agents may be seen as a reasonable excuse for leaving the house under regulations coming into force in England from Wednesday.

After seven weeks on hold, the government has freed its restrictions on the property market, allowing buyers and tenants in England to view properties and move home from 13 May. This news will come as a relief to the 450,000 people the government says have been unable to progress their plans to move since stay-at-home measures were introduced in March.

Property professionals welcomed the moves which they hope will help to reinvigorate the market and release some of the £82 billion-worth of pent-up demand in the market.

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.

From Wednesday people can:

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

And estate agents can visit properties to conduct valuations, and take photos and videos.

According to property website Zoopla, around 373,000 property transactions across the UK, with a total value of £82 billion, have been put on hold due to lockdown measures.

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. Although in-person house viewings are now permitted, the government has advised that home movers should conduct the majority of their property searches online to ward against the spread of coronavirus.

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.

In a joint statement, David Cox, chief executive of ARLA (Association of Residential Letting Agents) Propertymark and Mark Hayward, chief executive of NAEA (National Association of Estate Agents) Propertymark, said: “It’s great news for consumers and the industry that the housing market is being opened up and people can let, rent, buy and sell properties again.”

Moving house and viewing properties is not currently allowed in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales.

Image: Pixel-Shot / Adobe Stock

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About Helen Macefield

Helen Macefield reports on UK news.

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