From this Thursday 5th November, England will enter a second lockdown in a bid to curb rising coronavirus cases. What does this mean for the property market?
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced a country-wide lockdown that will last until 2nd December, in order to try and get the growing number of COVID-19 cases under control. Measures include closing non-essential retail, hospitality and leisure facilities, as well as stricter social distancing guidelines. People should also avoid unnecessary travel, and work from home when possible.
The first lockdown back in March resulted in a temporary halt to much housing market activity. Many building sites closed for a short time, while other parts of the industry such as estate agents, conveyancers and removal firms also ceased operations.
It wasn’t until May that the government “unlocked” the sector by allowing agents and the like back to offices. Meanwhile, there have been huge leaps in the use of technology to get around many of the issues over the past six months, and housing market activity has been at a record high since the summer.
What’s different with the second lockdown?
While the new lockdown contains measures which are just as strict, there are some differences. As far as housebuilding is concerned, construction sites can remain fully open. As most building sites have managed to adhere to social distancing guidelines over the past few months, little will change in this respect.
The government’s 300,000 homes a year target is still very much a focus, says Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick. This includes plans to encourage more building in the Midlands and the north, rather than London, he says.
Estate agents and letting agents can also continue their “business as usual” approach, while adhering to all COVID safety guidelines. Many have begun to conduct more virtual viewings, but it does mean that buyers and sellers will still be able to progress with their plans.
In the same vein, it seems that solicitors, conveyancers and mortgage lenders can also continue operations. However, the advice to work from home where possible still applies to the sector.
Likewise, removal firms can also carry out their work, although again under strict social distancing and health and safety guidelines. This will be welcome news to the many buyers and sellers who have spent the last few months securing purchases. Tenants in the private rented sector will also be able to move house.
In summary, Robert Jenrick has said: “The housing market will remain open throughout this period. Everyone should continue to play their part in reducing the spread of the virus by following the current guidance.”
Support from the sector
A number of industry professionals have come forward in support of the latest news from the government. The end of the year is expected to continue to be busy in the sector despite current events.
Mark Hayward, chief executive at NAEA Propertymark, comments: “We welcome the news that the housing market is to remain open throughout this second lockdown period, and it is essential that all agents continue to play their part in reducing the spread of the virus through following all relevant guidance.”
Ian McKenzie, CEO of the Guild of Property Professionals, also warns that people should still exercise caution, particularly agents.
“Now more than ever, it is crucial for estate and lettings agents to promote their Covid-secure-policies and display the measures they are taking to ensure the public’s safety,” he says.
“Given the current situation and the fact that the daily number of Covid cases is rapidly on the rise, people are going to be far more cautious with regard to the businesses they engage with. People will want to work with an agent that is following the guidelines and placing the health of their customers first.”