Housing market to be restarted as house viewings in England are allowed under new measures

Property viewings may be seen as a reasonable excuse for leaving the house Credit: PA

The housing market is set to be restarted as property viewings and visits to estate agents may be seen as a reasonable excuse for leaving the house under regulations coming into force in England from Wednesday.

Property professionals welcomed the moves which they hope will help to reinvigorate the market and release some of the £82 billion-worth of pent-up demand in the market.

Under previous rules to help limit the spread of Covid-19, moving house where it was reasonably necessary was already deemed a valid excuse for people to be away from home.

But under amendments to the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) regulations in England, a reasonable excuse will now be expanded to include undertaking several activities in connection with the purchase, sale, letting or rental of a residential property.

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They include:

  • Visiting estate or letting agents, developer sales offices or show homes

  • Viewing residential properties to look for a property to buy or rent

  • Preparing a residential property to move in

  • Moving home

  • Visiting a residential property to undertake any activities required for the rental or sale of that property

  • The housing market has nearly ground to a halt in recent weeks.

Estate agents were forced to close during the pandemic. Credit: PA

According to property website Zoopla, around 373,000 property transactions across the UK, with a total value of £82 billion, have been put on hold due to lockdown measures.

House hunters have been able to do “virtual viewings” online in recent weeks, but many may have been holding back from putting offers in until they could physically view a property.

Some lenders also recently withdrew low-deposit mortgages from the market amid difficulties in valuing homes during the lockdown, although some new deals have come on to the market since.

In a joint statement, David Cox, chief executive of ARLA (Association of Residential Letting Agents) Propertymark and Mark Hayward, chief executive of NAEA (National Association of Estate Agents) Propertymark, said: “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.

An estate agent replaces its window with rainbows in tribute to the NHS. Credit: PA

“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.”

Ana Bajri, associate director of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics), said: “Rics has been working closely with Government and industry to get the market up and running while ensuring everyone who is involved in it is safe and secure, so this is a welcome announcement.

“We have contributed to current Government advice, and over the coming days we will publish further practical guidance to support Rics professionals who play a critical role in the housing sector, specifically on physical inspections for mortgage valuations and home surveys.”

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said the Government’s plan “will enable people to move home safely, covering each aspect of the sales and letting process from viewings to removals”.

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