Housing market released from lockdown

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Estate agents can now open, property viewings take place and surveyors and removal firms can now operate, effective immediately as the government set out plans to reboot the housing market yesterday.

Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick, said the activities must still be carried out under social distancing rules, “Our plan is clear, we will enable people to move home safely, covering each aspect of the sales and lettings process, from viewings to removals… This critical industry can now safely move forward, and those waiting patiently to move can now do so.”

The plans included allowing tradespeople to operate, provided they also follow the strict, social distancing rules. Among these changes in measures, the government outlined changes to the house building sector:

  • Builders to agree more flexible working hours with local authorities to help ease pressure on local transport and communities
  • Enabling local authorities and builders to make public planning applications through social media
  • Allowing smaller developers and builders to defer payments to local authorities to help ease cash flow

These new measures will test whether there is the anticipated ‘postponed’ demand from a wave of buyers and renters, many of whom have had their plans put on hold just before the pandemic hit.

Jonathan Hopper, chief executive of property consultants Garrington Property Finders believes the demand is still out there from buyers for new property purchases.

“The lockdown may have halted conventional viewings, but there are plenty of signs that some would-be buyers have used the past six weeks to ‘window-shop'” he said.

The start of the Covid-19 pandemic saw property buyers flee the housing market, which led to a 70% drop in buyer demand over the course of just a few weeks and rental demand down by over 42% since the start of March, according to Zoopla. The government estimated more than 450,000 buyers and renters had been unable to progress their plans to move since March.

Only time will tell on what the market will now do following the lifting of these restrictions, many experts believe there could be a short-term spike, followed by a longer-term dip as the housing market takes a chill from the recession.

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