What are the new rules for buying, selling and renting property now the housing market has reopened?

The property market in England has reopened for business but with strict new guidelines in place. So what do the latest rules mean for people who want to buy, sell or rent a property in the coming months? And how safe will it all be?

Estate agents, property solicitors and removal firms were given the green light to get back to business in the government’s latest guidance, published on Monday. However, preventing the spread of coronavirus remains the highest priority, and the guidance sets out strict measures designed to keep all those involved in the process safe.

So what does it all mean in reality?

How do I get my house on the market now?

If you want to sell your home, you can begin to market your property whenever you are ready. Estate agents are allowed to visit your home to take photographs, provided everyone involved follows social distancing guidance and stays 2m apart, and your agent will then be able to start marketing your home – albeit with a few differences in the way they work.

If your home is already on the market, your agent should have been in touch regularly during lockdown, and will hopefully have already been promoting your home using virtual viewings and digital marketing. But if you haven’t agreed a sale yet, the new rules mean they will now be able to offer more services again.

How can property viewings go ahead safely?

Initial viewings should be done virtually wherever possible. Only after a virtual viewing has taken place should a physical viewing go ahead, once it’s been established that a buyer has a serious interest in a property.

Physical viewings must be carefully managed, with strict social distancing in place, and shouldn’t go ahead if anyone involved is showing coronavirus symptoms.

All viewings should take place by appointment, and only involve members of a single household. If you’re selling your home, measures such as opening internal doors, cleaning surfaces like door handles, and allowing handwashing facilities and separate paper towels are all advised by the government. It’s also recommended that members of the household vacate the property during the viewing, although that’s something your agent would usually recommend you do anyway.

If you’re viewing a property, the recommendations are all common sense, but advise you to avoid touching surfaces, wash hands regularly and bring hand sanitizer – plus of course, stay 2m away from anyone not in your household.

Quite rightly, open house viewings cannot currently take place.

RightMove’s advice for people going on viewings, and having people view their properties, contains more information on practical recommendations for viewings.

Will estate agent offices be open again?

Sales and letting agents are now able to open their offices again, provided they can implement appropriate social distancing measures to keep staff and customers safe. Many agents are likely to reopen with reduced staffing to begin with and may take a few days to get up and running while they review the new guidance, and take all the right steps. Many agents will also be providing their staff with appropriate PPE.

Although agents’ offices will be open, people looking for a new home are encouraged to do the majority of their property searching online.

What are the new rules for people who rent?

The same rules regarding property viewings apply to rented properties, and a relaxing of rules around removal firms mean it’s also now easier to move house.

However, the temporary ban on evictions announced by the government in March still remains in place, and will have an impact on this. To provide additional protection for tenants who might be affected by the coronavirus crisis, the government introduced new legislation which means that until 30 September 2020, most landlords will not be able to start possession proceedings unless they have given their tenants three-months’ notice.

The government recommends that while these broader measures to protect tenants during the coronavirus outbreak remain, letting agents and landlords should endeavour to avoid ending tenancies where the tenant wants and is able to stay.

However, for landlords with empty properties or where tenants are voluntarily vacating, they or their agent can now start showing prospective tenants around in line with the new guidance on viewings, provided current tenants are not symptomatic or self isolating, or are not in a high-risk group.

What steps is Foxes taking to adapt to the new guidelines?

The safety of our clients, customers and staff will always be our top priority at Foxes and we will need to be flexible and monitor the government guidance in the weeks ahead.

From Monday 18th May, there will be two staff in our Poole and Bournemouth offices between the hours of 9.30am to 3.30pm, to allow us to put our safe practising procedures in place. We are still available for contact during normal office hours by phone and email, however weekend viewings and visits to our office are by appointment only.

We will of course continue to offer our newly integrated online services, such as virtual initial viewings, and have taken the appropriate steps to protect everyone's safety with our strict viewing protocol and COVID-19 policy.

We also provide every vendor with a bespoke digital marketing package which includes targeted social media advertising, to ensure your property reaches a wide audience whilst social restrictions are in place.

If you would like to talk to us about selling or renting a property during the coming weeks, or just chat to us about your move and understand how this can be carried out safely and successfully, please get in touch on 01202 299600 or email hello@foxes.co.uk