The housing market is to remain open during the four-week lockdown in England.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government confirmed the news on Saturday evening.

Guidance for agents issued in August said “The process of searching for and moving into a new home is different because property agents, conveyancers and other professionals have modified how they work to reduce the risk from COVID-19. These changes could include doing more online, such as offering virtual viewings; vacating your current property during viewings, and ensuring your property is thoroughly cleaned before someone else moves in.”

At Ben Siggins, we changed the way we have been working since we were allowed to open our offices back in June to reflect these changes.

Ben said “Our business was already set up to enable our entire team to be able to work from home. Our phone system allows us to make and receive calls from any mobile phone, and our property software allowed access from any laptop. This meant our sellers, landlords, buyers and tenants were able to contact us, move home and be continuously be updated with their property transactions through the first lockdown. A situation that most of our competitors were unable to do.”

For members of the public – prospective buyers and tenants, as well as sellers and landlords – the same government guidance note says: “You are free to move home. However, you may find the process of searching for and moving into a new home is different, as property agents, conveyancers and other professionals have modified how they work to reduce the risk from COVID-19. “Initial viewings should be done virtually wherever possible. Property agents should be able to help you with this.

“Members of the public who are visiting an agent’s office or viewing a property should wear a suitable face covering as described in unless they are exempt from this requirement. This should be confirmed with the agent before arrival. Anyone with concerns should contact the agent in advance of their visit to discuss appropriate measures. The agent may require you to arrange an appointment before visiting the premises.”

“All physical viewings where prospective buyers or renters will be entering the property should involve no more than 2 households inside the property at any one time. This includes any agent accompanying either party. Anyone in a support bubble with either household, however, will count as part of that household. Where prospective buyers who are currently from separate households wish to view the property on the same occasion, we advise that one household leaves the property to allow the other to enter. This allows for both households to view the property and ensures social distancing. “Viewings should be arranged by appointment only and ‘open house’ viewings should not take place. When viewing properties in person, you should avoid touching surfaces wherever possible, wash your hands regularly and/or use hand sanitiser. If you need to be accompanied by small children, you should try to keep them from touching surfaces and ensure they wash their hands regularly.”

If people are being shown around your home, you should open all internal doors and ensure surfaces, such as door handles, are cleaned after each viewing with standard household cleaning products.

We recommend that you vacate your property while viewings are taking place in order to minimise unnecessary contact.

“When moving between properties, you and those in your household should try to do as much of the packing yourself as you can. Where this is not possible, you should speak to removal firms in advance. There is further advice about this below.If you are particularly worried about the risk of infection, then speak to your landlord, estate agent or removers as they may be able to put extra precautionary measures in place.”

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