Using Twitter to break the news to the property market over the weekend, Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick, has confirmed that house moves can continue when Thursday's second national lockdown begins. However, it has yet to be decided whether branches can remain open.
According to Saturday's announcement, the UK housing market has managed to escape the restrictions and narrowly avoided a repeat performance of the damaging effects of the first 'industry pause'.
With full details revealed later this week, the Housing Secretary made it clear that “that ‘the housing market will remain open throughout this period. Everyone should continue to play their part in reducing the spread of the virus by following the current guidance” adding “They will need to follow social distancing guidance that has already been published.”
Also revealed in a separate tweet was that renters are included in the new guidance and will also be able to move home.
However, the big question remains whether estate agency branches can remain open.
A government spokesperson cautiously advised that "estate agents will be able to operate" but would not elaborate further claiming that a further announcement on this would come in the next few days.
Mark Hayward, Chief Executive, NAEA Propertymark, responded to the news: “We welcome the news that the housing market is to remain open throughout this second lockdown period, and it is essential that all agents continue to play their part in reducing the spread of the virus through following all relevant guidance.
“Agents must operate in accordance with government and Propertymark guidelines, to keep the market moving through these uncertain times.”
Kate Davies, executive director of IMLA, commented: “While the country faces a second national lockdown, the Government has rightly decided to keep Britain’s housing market open.
"Lenders, advisers, surveyors, and conveyancers are already experiencing unprecedented levels of demand from consumers eager to take advantage of the Government’s stamp duty holiday, which is due to end on 31st March 2021, and also the Help to Buy scheme, which will be available only to first-time buyers from 1st April 2021.
"They now face the task of helping thousands more consumers potentially requesting payment deferrals as borrowers struggle to meet their mortgage repayments during the lockdown. Closing the housing market at this time would have only added to this pressure on the sector by creating yet another backlog of demand once lockdown ends.”
Paul Offley, Compliance Officer at The Guild of Property Professionals, adds: "Since the pandemic hit our shores and we were initially put into lockdown, the entire sector has rapidly evolved and adapted to working in a new and safe manner. The process of searching for a property and moving into a new home has quickly changed to reduce the risk from Covid-19. This fast adaption has been a key element to the sector being able to continue to remain open and trading while so many others can’t.
“As a sector, we need to continue to ensure we are acting according to the prescribed health guidelines to help keep both clients and staff members safe during this second wave."