The UK has been gradually easing out of lockdown for the past few months, but times are still unusual and we are still some way off a full return to normality.
Across the country, people are getting used to a new world of social distancing, mask-wearing, stricter hygiene and remote working.
These big changes to how we live our lives also extend to the property market. While in-person viewings have been allowed again since mid-May, when the property market restarted, they must now adhere to a number of strict protocols on social distancing, hygiene and cleanliness.
Here, we set out how you should work with your estate agent to make sure that viewings are conducted in a safe and compliant way.
A new way of doing things
As a first port of call, virtual viewings are still being encouraged, where possible, to make sure that a buyer is serious about your home before viewing it in the flesh.
Nevertheless, it is highly likely that most buyers will still want to see their potential future home on a physical basis before committing to an offer.
While virtual viewings can be highly useful, they can’t quite replicate the sights, sounds and feel of an in-person experience.
Viewing a home wasn’t possible for almost two months, but the reopening of the market on May 13 enabled these to happen again. But they are not the same as before, with strict guidance in place to ensure they are carried out safely and reducing the chances of coronavirus being spread as much as possible.
When the market reopened, the government advice on moving home during Covid-19 was updated to provide buyers, sellers and agents with clear guidance on how the process should work. This updated advice has remained unchanged since May 21 2020.
The guidance outlined that people were free to move home again, but pointed out that the process would be different for some time. All parties would need to adapt their practices and procedures to ensure that the risk of spreading coronavirus was as low as possible.
This means initial viewings should be conducted remotely wherever possible, while physical viewings should be limited to members of the same household. Open house viewings, for obvious reasons, are currently advised against.
During the viewing itself, there are a number of new protocols which you and your agent must be aware of and implement.
Where possible, buyers should avoid touching surfaces and wash their hands regularly. If small children must join the viewing, they should be kept from touching surfaces and wash their hands frequently.
It falls on you, as the seller, to open all internal doors and windows for added ventilation – the virus is known to survive for less time outdoors and when fresh air is circulating – as well as ensuring that surfaces, including door handles, kitchen worktops, bannisters and other things people may touch during the viewing, are cleaned after each viewing with standard household cleaning products.
It’s also recommended that you leave your property while viewings are taking place to minimise contact with those from outside your household.
It’s important that all viewings are appointment-only. If someone spontaneously turns up on your front door expecting to view your home, you should turn them away and remind them of the current government advice.
Social distancing should also be practised by all those involved in the house moving process at all times. This is in line with the general public health guidance to limit the spread of Covid-19.
If you have particular concerns about selling your home at this time, and the possible risk of infection, speak with your estate agent and they may be able to introduce extra measures for further peace of mind.
Trade body NAEA Propertymark, for example, has encouraged its member agents and the people they are showing around houses to wear gloves and masks/face coverings on house viewings.
What can you do to make your home safe on a viewing?
Collaborate with your agent to make sure that your home is ready to take on viewings in a safe and compliant manner before agreeing to anyone entering your property.
The more confident and comfortable you can make buyers feel when viewing your home, the more focused they will be on the property itself rather than the potential infection risk. That will be a big boost to your chances of receiving offers.
You must remember to clean all surfaces in line with government advice after every viewing. It may even be wise to hire in a professional cleaner on a weekly basis to ensure your home is both in gleaming condition and Covid-safe before any viewings take place.
You might also wish to space viewings out to give yourself more time to adequately clean your home between them. For example, you could limit viewings to once a day, or a few each week.
This might seem counter-productive, as you might think three or four viewings per day will increase your chances of selling your home. But it’s important to remember that any viewer currently viewing your home is likely to be a serious buyer, so it’s a case of quality not quantity. You shouldn’t be focusing on the volume of viewings you have, but the seriousness of the buyers on those viewings.
What’s more, if you hold too many viewings in a row, the chances of rules being broken or measures not being followed to the letter naturally increase.
To provide further peace of mind, you may want to provide masks and gloves at the front door for any viewers who don’t have them. Hand sanitiser being offered upon entrance and exit will also no doubt be welcomed.
All internal doors and windows should be opened and you must allow easy access to handwashing facilities. You should ideally provide separate towels/paper towels for each person on the viewing – likely to be one or two people viewing the home and then the agent.
The government expects agents to accompany clients on a viewing, following social distancing rules wherever possible. This will be made easier if walkways, stairs and corridors are free of clutter and obstructions.
It will also be wise to structure your home in such a way to make a one-way system possible. This could prove trickier in smaller homes, but work with your agent to create a system that encourages social distancing at all times.
If viewings are unaccompanied – with a buyer viewing the home on their own, or you showing them around – your agent should still ensure that all parties are clear on how the viewing should be carried out. After any viewing, towels should be disposed of safely or washed as appropriate.
The full government guidance on moving home safely during coronavirus can be seen by clicking here.
For more information on how Key Property Consultants can assist you through your property journey, please get in touch with us on 0203 793 2033 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are based in Penge and help to sell homes throughout South East London.
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