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Housing market opens for business:estate agents report immediate surge as lockdown eases

Enquiries from sellers started rolling in soon after the announcement last night. 

London estate agents and housebuilders are reporting a surge in enquiries from buyers after the Government said branches and show homes can reopen and viewings and moves start again from today.

The announcement by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick at 10 o’clock last night caught the industry by surprise but triggered an immediate spike in activity this morning that is expected to gather momentum rapidly.

Property search portal Rightmove has already reported a 45 per cent increase in visits this morning compared to this time yesterday, while Guy Gittins, managing director of Chestertons says the phones “have been ringing off the hook”.

The lockdown imposed on March 23 left 450,000 buyers and renters stranded mid-transaction, unable to push on with moves worth an estimated £80 billion.

Rightmove’s housing market expert Miles Shipside says: "This welcome announcement is excellent news for the housing industry and the wider UK economy. We’ve all been eagerly anticipating the day that people can start buying, selling, renting and letting properties again and it has come a lot sooner than many of us expected."

Many property industry commentators reported a steady increase in pent-up demand from home buyers leading into the lockdown. And although transaction levels plummeted as the coronavirus crisis brought the property market to a standstill, Rightmove reports activity has been rising at a stable rate for a few weeks now, while new buyer registrations with estate agent Savills have surged in the past few weeks.

Today, the industry is returning to work under government guidance that sets out the "new normal" for home buyers, sellers and estate agents – and paints a very different picture to pre-virus days.

Viewings and moves will only be allowed to go ahead under strict social distancing conditions. In this post-lockdown housing market, potential buyers could be asked to complete a health declaration before being offered viewings in person and market appraisals for sales and lettings. Estate agents will wear masks and gloves and sanitise properties before and after viewings.

"Ultimately everyone wants to stay safe – so as long as everyone practices social distancing to protect each other, we will all help minimise infection and help get our customers moving again," says Jonathan Hudson, founder of Hudsons estate agents in Fitzrovia.

"We have new technology to improve virtual viewings, to include 360-degree walk-arounds," he adds.

Enquiries from sellers started rolling in soon after the announcement last night. Edward Cunningham, partner in Knight Frank’s country department, reports: “I had eight emails last night between 10pm and midnight from sellers saying to call me in the morning and asking whether when we are ready to start showing or launching their property. On the buyer side, we have some serious pent-up demand from the last three weeks.”

James Gubbins, of Knight Frank’s Mayfair office, says: “I have just been asked this morning to arrange a viewing for a billionaire owner of a flat in Mayfair. They hadn’t previously been looking to upsize. However, as a direct result of the lifting of lockdown, they have made the decision to buy a larger property, having been isolating there as a family.”

Mr Jenrick referred to the housing sector as a critical industry which can now move forward, but also urged all home movers and housing services to follow guidance from Public Health England. For example, anyone advised to self-isolate should continue to do so and not move home.


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