The COVID-19 pandemic has stalled the UK housing market, with a combination of government and business action virtually halting house sales and new home building.
The government has asked estate agents to work with their clients and all parties in a chain to delay moving dates, even where contacts have been exchanged. House moves can go ahead where they are unavoidable, but social distancing rules and other steps to reduce the spread of the coronavirus must be observed.
Agents have also been ordered to close their offices and to ensure that staff can work from home. They have been told not to visit people’s homes to carry out market appraisals.
Solicitors and conveyancers may continue to support the sales process, particularly where properties are unoccupied. However, they have been asked to advise their clients not to exchange contracts unless explicit provisions are made to prevent transmission of the virus.
Surveyors have been instructed not to undertake non-urgent surveys where people are in residence and not to survey homes at all where people are shielding or self-isolating. They should work online where possible, but may work in people’s homes on urgent matters, providing they themselves are well and have no symptoms of coronavirus.
Many housebuilders have suspended construction on their sites including Taylor Wimpey, Barratt, and Persimmon. Estate agent, Savills, says that this inevitably means there will be a fall in both housing delivery and new build sales this year.
Overall Savills is expecting house prices to fall between 5%-10% in the short term on low transaction volumes but sees a more positive medium-term outlook. “On the upside, households whose incomes remain stable and secure will be able to take advantage of historically low interest rates. This should support a return to stronger levels of price growth in the medium term,” it says in its outlook for the housing market.
“Property professionals from estate agents to surveyors and architects will all be severely affected by the coronavirus outbreak, but the market is being predicted to return once the current restrictions are lifted,” said James Burgoyne, Director – Claims & Technical, Brunel Professions. “We’re here to support our clients through the pandemic with information on their insurance and risk management, so that they are well-placed to thrive when business starts to return to normal.”
The government’s advice has been published on its website. Reports about the government’s guidance have been published by Building and the National Association of Estate Agents. Savills has published its assessment of the outlook for the housing market on its website.
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