House viewings may be stopped and the property market moved back into lockdown as buyers and sellers fail to take adequate safety precautions, an industry boss has warned.
The warning comes from the boss of a trade body representing estate agents, who claimed that some house viewings were taking place without safety measures such as social distancing.
Mark Hayward, chief executive of NAEA Propertymark, said: ‘We’re hearing that some buyers and sellers are choosing to totally ignore safety measures, meaning that agents are left with no choice but to cancel viewings.’
He added that there were still some ‘unscrupulous agents turning a blind eye’ and allowing viewings to go ahead without sufficient precautions.
The housing market reopened on May 13 with new Government guidelines in place to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
These included everyone at a house viewing washing their hands and not touching surfaces where possible. And the viewings should only involve members of a single household.
Without these safety measures in place, viewings are not allowed to take place, with most agents adhering to the new guidelines.
However, Mr Hayward, explained: ‘Some unscrupulous agents are turning a blind eye and allowing visits to still take place for commercial gain.’
NAEA Propertymark’s own safety guidance goes a step further than the Government guidance, asking everyone at a viewing to wear gloves and face coverings.
Mr Hayward blamed Covid fatigue, saying people were so keen to view properties that they were overlooking the safety advice.
And he went on to warn that the housing market could go back into lockdown if people continue to fail to comply.
His comments are based on anecdotal evidence from the trade body’s members.
He said: ‘People are spending a weekend in a new location and staying overnight so that they can do multiple viewings.
‘And we are seeing anecdotal evidence that buyers and sellers are ignoring safety guidelines and just want to get on and see as many properties as they can.
‘It is alarming that this is happening and people are not adhering to the new guidelines for the property market.
‘We cannot have another lockdown in the housing market, as this would be catastrophic.’
NAEA Propertymark advises that everyone at a property viewing wears a mask
Not all estate agents have reopened as some have ceased trading or reduced the number of branches they have, according to Mr Hayward.
He said: ‘There is Covid fatigue in the housing market. It is about health and wellbeing. If the sector is seen to be abusing the safety rules, the Government has the right to withdraw its consent to keep the housing market open.’
If the sector is seen to be abusing the safety rules, the Government has the right to withdraw its consent to keep the housing market open
He went on to say that he believes house prices should hold amid a lack of supply – although buyers are facing financial pressures as lenders cherry-pick those borrowers with a large deposit.
Nationwide confirmed that it would not be offering mortgages to those without at least a 15 per cent deposit for the time being last week, unless they were already customers.
It comes amid the mortgage market seeing a sharp decline in high loan-to-value mortgages meaning that first-time buyers, in particular, will find it hard to secure finance without a large deposit.
Guidelines on house viewings
People should use virtual viewings before visiting properties in person where possible, in order to minimise public health risks.
All viewings should take place by appointment and only involve members of a single household.
Initial viewings should be done virtually wherever this is possible and physical viewings should only be conducted where buyers are seriously considering making an offer on a property.
Viewings should be conducted by appointment only and no open house viewings should take place.
If your property is being viewed, you should open all the internal doors prior to the viewing, and allow access to handwashing facilities and ideally separate towels.
As most people choose to do, the Government is encouraging you to vacate your property while viewings are taking place in order to minimise your contact with those not in your household.
When viewing a property, all parties should wash their hands and avoid touching surfaces where possible.
Agents will ask you to restrict the number of people who accompany you on a viewing so that social distancing can be practised, and only those in your immediate household should be there.
We expect agents to accompany clients on a viewing but follow social distancing rules wherever possible.
Once the viewing has taken place, the homeowner should ensure surfaces, such as door handles, are cleaned with standard household cleaning products and towels disposed of safely or washed as appropriate.