The property market remains open despite England being plunged back into a March-style lockdown.
But unlike in the first lockdown, this means that people can continue to move home, and do everything needed to complete that process. This includes viewing homes for sale in person, right through to allowing removal firms into homes.
But the news comes with a plea from housing experts to follow safety guidelines and only attempt to move if it is essential, due to the sharp rise in Covid cases.
The property market remains open as the country is plunged back into a March-style lockdown
Tomer Aboody, of property lender MT Finance, said: ‘Unlike the first lockdown, estate agents remain open for business – and both sellers and buyers are still keen to proceed with their transactions.
‘With lawyers, valuers and agents all still working, this should limit any further delays to transactions.
‘It is now down to the comfort level of sellers in terms of allowing potential buyers in to view their homes, and buyers feeling comfortable attending viewings. Extra caution will be taken on all sides to allow viewings to proceed.’
What is the safety advice for buyers and sellers?
Mark Hayward, of the estate agents’ body Propertymark, said: ‘We welcome the news that the housing market is to remain open throughout this new lockdown period.
‘But it is essential that all agents continue to play their part in reducing the spread of the virus by following all relevant guidance on how to safely conduct viewings.
‘It is vital to keep movers and buyers safe and keep the housing market moving through these uncertain times.’
Virtual viewings are taking place on many properties for sale and buyers are being urged to look at those first before committing to a physical viewing.
The safety advice from the Government about moving home includes those viewing a property for sale having to wash and sanitise their hands and avoid touching surfaces, with viewings only able to involve members of a single household.
Without these safety measures in place, viewings are not meant to take place, with most agents adhering to the new guidelines.
Propertymark has gone a step further, advising everyone at a viewing to wear gloves and face coverings.
It has previously warned that if its members failed to adhere to its guidelines, the Government may decide to lockdown the housing market once again.
What are the restrictions on the property market?
The housing market has had to deal with some big pressures during the global pandemic.
With tenants facing the challenges of unemployment and not being able to pay their rent, they risked losing their homes.
It led the Government to place a ban on tenant evictions at the beginning of the lockdown, which was extended until September last year. However, court proceedings can now take place.
It prompted fears that landlords would be unable to meet their mortgage payments. Along with homeowners, they were given payment holidays.
Both tenants and property owners are still required to repay their debts.
Virtual viewings are taking place and people are being urged to look at those first before committing to a physical viewing
As the number of Covid cases increases, people are being urged to move only if necessary.
North London estate agent Jeremy Leaf said : ‘This latest national lockdown is disappointing but understandable and hopefully we will make up for short-term pain with medium and longer-term gain. Enforced confinement is likely to mean the release of pent-up demand when it is over.
‘There are many people who have made legal commitments to buy, sell or rent, and need or have to move. This could be for health or financial reasons, a relationship breakdown or domestic violence – whatever the reason, these moves can’t be halted even in light of the pandemic.
‘We will be returning to the protocols that we previously adopted and there will be a clear distinction between occupied and unoccupied properties.
‘The new lockdown will affect surveyors, removals firms etc and in the circumstance, it would be prudent for the Chancellor to reconsider the stamp duty deadline. Those who have moved heaven and earth to meet the deadline should not now be penalised if they miss it through no fault of their own.’
Will the stamp duty holiday be extended?
Despite the coronavirus crisis, the property market has remained resilient after its initial lockdown freeze, with some support from the Chancellor.
Rishi Sunak introduced a stamp duty holiday that applies to the first £500,000 of a home’s purchase price. The holiday is scheduled to stop at the end of March, but there are calls for an extension.
Mr Hayward is urging the Government to extend the stamp duty holiday.
He said: ‘The prioritisation of the Government of a functioning property market and subsequent implementation of the stamp duty holiday as well as measures taken to keep the rent flowing within the private sector have allowed for record-breaking levels of house sales and rental accommodation.’
All regions saw prices rise in 2020, with the East Midlands seeing the biggest jump of 8.6%
What is happening in the property market?
Propertymark’s data revealed the highest number of tenants on record searched for homes in August.
Meanwhile, house prices saw their biggest annual increase in six years in December as the property market continued to boom despite the usual slowdown in the run-up to Christmas and new Covid restrictions.
The average price of a home in Britain rose 7.3 per cent, or more than £15,000, in the past year to £230,920, according to Nationwide Building Society. It said prices rose 0.8 per cent, or almost £1,200, in the last month alone.
Nationwide calculated that property values are also more than £11,000, or 5.3 per cent, higher than they were in March, before the first lockdown.
The property market in all four nations – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – remain open.