Open for business – the property market rules during the new lockdown

Open for business – the property market rules during the new lockdown

The latest coronavirus national lockdown has once again placed intense restrictions on our lives. But unlike the first lockdown back in the spring of 2020, the good news for buyers, sellers, landlords and renters is that the property market is staying open this time around.

We’re sure you have plenty of questions about what you can and can’t do when it comes to property during the lockdown – and we’re answering many of them below…

Can I view properties to buy or rent during lockdown?

Property viewings can still take place during the lockdown, but with your health and safety firmly in mind.

Here at Ellis & Co, we’ll be offering buyers and prospective tenants virtual viewings in the first instance and where possible.

And for viewings in person, we’ll be continuing to follow strict rules on social distancing and hygiene to keep us all safe.

What are agents doing to keep us safe on viewings?

Where possible, viewings should be done virtually. At Ellis & Co, we’re also doing our market appraisals by video call to limit social interaction with others.

In terms of in-person viewings, we are:

• Limiting property viewings to two members of the same household

• Undertaking cleaning of surfaces before and after viewings

• Maintaining social distancing where possible during viewings

• Providing hand sanitiser or hand washing facilities during viewings

• Using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Will the lockdown affect the sale of my home?

Of course, property sales do sometimes fall through, even in normal times.

But with the market open and all the major people involved in transactions still operating, albeit remotely, there’s no reason to suggest the new lockdown will directly affect property sales. Most solicitors have been working from home since last March and continue to do so.

And while the pandemic has caused certain aspects of the sales process, such as searches, to be delayed, many, many sales have been progressing without a hitch.

• More than 115,000 sales were recorded in November 2020 – 19.3% more than in November 2019, according to HMRC

• The 12 months of 2020 saw 9% more sales agreed than 2019, according to Zoopla

• More than 104,000 mortgages were approved in November 2020 – the highest number since August 2007, reported the Bank of England

• Zoopla reported 40% more demand for property in 2020 than the previous year – despite the spring lockdown

I’m currently buying a home, but can I move during the lockdown?

You can still move during the lockdown.

Estate agents, conveyancers and mortgage lenders are still operational and are helping to push through property purchases while also staying safe. Removals companies, too, are still able to enter homes during moves, but must stick to rules on social distancing and hygiene.

If your lender needs to carry out a valuation on your new home, they can do so while following the guidance, while you can also book a surveyor to complete a survey.

I want to rent a new property during lockdown – can I?

Tenants can view properties to rent during the lockdown but you should do so virtually if you can.

When viewing a property to rent in person, the landlord or letting agent should host with social distancing and hygiene measures in place. Our top priority at Ellis & Co is ensuring you’re safe and you can find out more about the steps we’re taking during rental property viewings here.

As a landlord, can I rent my property to new tenants during lockdown?

You can rent out your property to new tenants during lockdown, but viewings should be done virtually where they can.

Face-to-face viewings, meanwhile, should be done when your property is vacant if at all possible.

Landlords and their letting agents can also:

• Arrange property maintenance through tradespeople as long as it is safe to do so and coronavirus safety guidance is followed

• Undertake cleaning between tenancies and check-in / check-out inventories while taking steps to limit social contact

• Host viewings of rental properties while sticking to rules on hygiene and social distancing, but these should be done virtually where possible and ideally when the property is vacant

Will the stamp duty holiday end in March as planned?

A stamp duty ‘holiday’ was announced for England in July 2020, but this is due to end on March 31 this year.

The changes to stamp duty mean buyers completing their purchases before March 31 will pay no stamp duty on the first £500,000 of a property’s purchase price. Buyers of second homes or investment properties will still pay a 3% additional homes surcharge, but can still make substantial savings, too. However, from April 1, stamp duty exemption is due to revert to the first £125,000 of a purchase price, with first-time buyers exempt on the first £300,000.

There have been calls for an extension to the stamp duty ‘holiday’ beyond March 31 due to the new lockdown as buyers race to beat the deadline.

How is the property market doing during the pandemic?

The stamp duty holiday and demand from buyers has seen the property market outperform even the most optimistic expectations during the pandemic.

After a busy summer, autumn and now winter, the market continues to perform well.

• UK property prices grew by 7.5% in 2020, according to Nationwide

• 40,000 sales were agreed between May 13, when the market reopened after the first lockdown, and June 13

• Rightmove recorded its busiest day since September on January 4, 2021 – with six million visits in one day

• Visits to Rightmove in December 2020 were 57% higher than in December 2019, while Boxing Day saw a 54% year-on-year rise in visitors

Rightmove has predicted price growth of 4% in 2021 and buyers are still extremely active despite the winter months and the lockdown, as many look to find their ideal home and beat the stamp duty deadline in March.