On Sunday night I, along with 27m others, sat down to watch Boris announce the government’s plan to ease the lockdown phase of the fight against COVID-19. From a professional point of view, I was hoping to hear that movement restrictions could be released to allow the property market to restart. Sunday didn’t give that level of detail but on Tuesday night (12th May) the property industry received the news we had been hoping for. The government confirmed that people are now free to move home, albeit the process will likely be different to how it has been in the past.
Whilst the green light has been given for the property market to resume in full, the government have stressed that procedure and practices must be adapted to ensure the risk of spreading the virus is reduced as far as possible. Social distancing must be practiced at all times. Those infected or self isolating are not permitted to move until all members of the household have come to the end of their isolation period.
Estate agents and show homes will be permitted to reopen from Wednesday 13th May but the way physical viewings will be conducted will be very different.
For many of those who were already in the legal process when the country was placed in lockdown, they have been patiently waiting for your ability to move again. The restrictions prohibited moving into an occupied property due to the risk of passing the virus to another and removal firms were prevented from assisting those who need their help to move. The revised guidance confirms that removers can begin working again, subject to adhering to the safe working guidance. Those purchasing occupied properties were told they can proceed but, conveyancers were warned to ensure adequate provision is made in the contract to cover the risks associated with the virus.
So, the property market has the ability to reopen its doors but it will look very different to the way it did only two months ago. Whether buyers have the appetite and ability to proceed remains to be seen.
Nichola Wilson is an Associate within mfg's Residential Property Division. Email Nichola on email@example.com