Well, I suppose we knew it was coming. With the NHS under increasing pressure and Boris Johnson under increasing political pressure to introduce new restrictions, the UK’s third national lockdown was introduced this week. Sigh. The measures will last until mid-February at the earliest. But I think we all suspect they could last a lot longer than that.
Fortunately for us, however, the UK property market will remain open for now. The ‘hands, face, space’ message might have been replaced with ‘stay at home’, but mercifully ‘moving home’ is still allowed. And with thousands of transactions racing to meet the 31st March stamp duty deadline, this is very good news indeed.
It won’t exactly be business as usual though. Estate agents, removal companies, conveyancing solicitors, surveyors, and relevant tradesmen can keep working but only if we follow strict guidance. This will make the coming weeks difficult but not insurmountable. So what, exactly, do we need to know?
The government has published comprehensive guidance for everyone involved in the moving process, from buyers and sellers to EPC assessors. Some of these rules we already know but it’s worth reiterating them here. Basically, in the words of Mark Hayward the chief policy adviser at Propertymark, we all need to “play our part in reducing the spread of the virus” by keeping “movers and buyers safe”.
Guidelines for agents
Agents are the driving force of the property market. And as ringmasters, they have to ensure that everybody understands the guidance and follows it. This is the only way for vendors and buyers to feel safe – the key prerequisite to keeping the market afloat while the vaccines are rolled out.
It’s fantastic news that the property sector can keep operating during lockdown. People need to move regardless of what’s going on in the broader world, whether it’s for financial reasons, employment, a relationship breakdown, or health issues. What’s more, we’re sure that the chancellor will be eternally grateful for the tax windfall from all those stamp duty holiday-inspired transactions.
However, we all need to be careful in what we hope will be the final push before normality resumes later this year. As the government website makes clear “it may become necessary to pause all home moves locally or nationally for a short period of time to manage the spread of coronavirus.” So let’s stick to the guidance above and not give them any reason to lock us down before the inoculation infantry arrives.