News broke yesterday evening that Regulations covering travel restrictions are relaxed from today (May 13th) enabling estate agents, surveyors, and valuers to go to carry out their work in England.
It was followed by a formal announcement by the Housing Minister.
The change to the Regulations amended legislation that had limited travelling to and from properties for “non-essential purposes”, and effectively gave the green light to a resumption of activity in the industry.
As a result, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick was expected to announce today that the housing market in England could resume.
Then, without warning, at 10pm last night MHCLG put out a press release that pre-empted or possibly replaced a verbal statement by the Minister. It read:
From today [sic] anyone in England can move home if they follow new guidance published by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick.
Since lockdown restrictions were implemented in March, more than 450,000 people have been unable to progress their plans to move house.
All buyers and renters will now be able to complete purchases and view properties in person, while estate agents, conveyancers and removals firms can return to work while following social distancing guidelines.”
Jenrick said in the release:
“Today [sic] I am announcing new guidelines to allow the housing market to resume. Our clear 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.”
There is no word yet on Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
Earlier in the evening EYE was the first industry publication to break the news of the change and a storm of activity opened up on the site and on social media, since the legislation amendement had caught everyone by surprise.
There was widespread disbelief and confusion over the sudden change, not least because only the day before Jenrick had said the government was not ready to ease restrictions on the housing market.
Early reactions suggested many cannot understand why it is not permissible to meet family members more than one to one outdoors but it is now fine to work with others in an office and to enter occupied property.
From today, estate agents can open, viewings can be carried out and removal firms and conveyancers can restart operations.
Purchasers and tenants will be allowed to visit show homes and view houses on the market to let or buy.
Those who have bought a new home will be able to visit it to prepare for moving in.
Kevin Hollinrake M.P., himself an agent, tweeted last night:
“Great news that the housing market opens up again tomorrow morning for views, valuations, exchanges, check ins, completions.
“Will kick start many parts of the economy.
“All activities subject to comprehensive social distancing rules of course.”
David Cox, Chief Executive of ARLA Propertymark and Mark Hayward, Chief Executive of NAEA Propertymark reacted with:
“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.
“The new regulations provide clarity to agents and will allow them to deal with pent up demand from consumers.
“It’s also a step to reinvigorating the housing market and will be a boost to the economy.
“Safety of course will be paramount, and we would encourage everyone to ensure that they follow Government guidelines closely to protect others and themselves.”
Iain McKenzie, CEO of The Guild of Property Professionals said:
“The announcement that estate and lettings agents can return to work is excellent news for both the industry and the greater economy with housing related activity making up a substantial contribution to GDP.
“However, it is imperative that the sector returns to work with clear COVID-19 safe guidelines, taking into consideration the concerns of colleagues and customers.”
Andy Marshall, Chief Commercial Officer, Zoopla, said:
“We’re delighted that the Government has recognised the need to restart the property market, permitting estate agents to operate – within the parameters of common sense social distancing.
“Now is the time to get the market moving and to restore it to full health.”
Dominic Agace, Chief Executive of Winkworth estate agents, said:
“This is great news. We have a socially distanced work environment plan to manage the business and can implement it quickly to ensure that we can go back to full operations.
“This will enable our customers to move on to the next stage in their lives, releasing the anxieties caused by the lockdown.”
EYE urges all those who engaged in agency work to take the highest levels of precaution to avoid infecting themselves, their customers, their loved ones, or anyone else.
The measures relating to social distancing and protection against infection still apply absolutely.
Take time to properly plan your return to work strategies, don’t rush back in simply to steal a march on your competitors.
Employers have the obligations to adhere to the safety guidance that was published on Monday (see below)
Covid-19 is still a very real threat and a second wave of infections will put us back into tight lockdown.
If the government has made a wrong call on this and let the industry off the leash too soon, we will all pay a price.
Please, put safety ahead of profit.