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What does England’s third lockdown mean for the property market?

From Wednesday 6th January, England enters a third lockdown in a bid to curb rising coronavirus cases. What are the latest rules impacting the property market?

On Monday 4th January, Prime Minister Boris Johnson once again announced that England is returning to a country-wide lockdown. People in England must stay at home until at least the middle of February in order to slow the spread of the new strain of COVID-19.

Measures include closing schools, non-essential shops and leisure and hospitality facilities. Additionally, people should avoid any unnecessary travel, work from home unless it is impossible to do so and only exercise outside once per day.

What did the previous lockdowns mean for the property market?

In March 2020, the first lockdown resulted in a temporary halt to the majority of housing market activity. Numerous building sites closed. Additionally, professionals in the property industry, such as estate agents, removal firms and conveyancers, were unable to work. Then, in May, the government “unlocked” the sector.

A second lockdown then came into effect in November. However, during this lockdown, the housing market remained open. Through the recent four-tier system, the sector also continued operating. The government is continuing to show the property market is a priority and an important part of the country’s economic recovery.

What are the new rules on buying, selling and moving?

The housing market remains open during the third lockdown. Estate and lettings agents, removal firms and tradespeople are allowed to continue working in people’s homes. This allows the large number of homebuyers and sellers to continue with their transactions and may help many complete before the stamp duty holiday deadline at the end of March.

Mark Hayward, chief executive at NAEA Propertymark, comments: “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.”

During the lockdown, homebuyers and tenants can still move home. However, those outside a household or individual support bubble should not help with moving unless it is absolutely necessary. Government guidance for moving safely must also be followed. This includes social distancing, wearing a face covering and letting fresh air into the property.

Additionally, if you are actively looking to move, you can view properties in person. However, if possible, start your search online and undertake virtual viewings at first. Mark Hayward adds: “It is vital that agents operate in accordance with government and Propertymark guidelines to help prevent the spread of Covid-19, keep movers and buyers safe and keep the housing market moving through these uncertain times.”

Building sites will also remain open. People who work within critical national construction, infrastructure and manufacturing, which require in-person attendance, can continue working.

How has the property market continued to adapt?

The property industry as a whole continues to adapt and follow strict health and safety and social distancing guidelines. Even though the property market remains open, the sector needs to remain diligent to ensure safety for all involved.

Even though the sector can carry on with in-person viewings and valuations, many are taking a virtual-first approach. And this could continue even after COVID-19 as homebuyers and tenants are using virtual viewings as a way to narrow down their list of properties they wish to view in person.

Since the first lockdown that shut the property market for a period of time, the sector has made huge leaps in the use of technology. This has helped many property professionals overcome challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought forward.

Since the summer of 2020, buying, selling and letting activity has been at record highs. And the property market’s ability to adapt quickly has kept the market moving effectively and efficiently and will continue to do so throughout the uncertainty of 2021.

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