Coronavirus UK: Houses flood property market as crash expected

How can you sell or buy a home during the coronavirus outbreak?  

  • People who want to sell their home will need to make sure they are out of their property while viewings take place and buyers and sellers should expect to delay moves if someone involved gets Covid-19. 
  • During the viewing all internal doors should be opened, and door handles disinfected after the viewing 
  • Speculative viewings are discouraged  
  • They should not expect to move into any home where people have coronavirus or are self-isolating
  • Government guidelines indicate more of the process will take place online and some – or all – moves may still need to be paused to limit the spread of coronavirus

Desperate sellers are dropping the prices of their homes after a glut of properties flooded onto websites today as Britain’s housing market was reopened in a bid to get the country moving again during the lockdown.

Some 2,150 properties have been added to RightMove in England, Wales and Scotland over the past 24 hours – a huge increase on the preceding days – as Robert Jenrick lifted the ban on moves – while many properties are now being reduced in a bid to shift them quickly.

Prices are now dropping, with examples today including a three-bedroom terraced house in Tottenham reduced from £410,000 to £385,000 today, and a one-bedroom flat in Tooting down from £450,000 to £395,000.

At the top end of the market, a two-bedroom flat in Marylebone has been reduced from £5.25million to £4.95million today, while a three-bedroom penthouse in Knightsbridge has fallen from £3million to £2.7million.

Meanwhile six-bedroom detached properties in Bournemouth and Plymouth have been reduced from £825,000 to £725,000 and £550,000 to £500,000 respectively. 

The Bank of England has predicted that prices will plummet by 16 per cent this year and surveyors across the UK are reporting thousands of deals falling through since the market shut on March 26 as sellers pull out amid the economic uncertainty. 

More than 450,000 buyers and renters have been unable to make progress on their plans to move since March. 

Now, house-hunters are now being told to wear face masks and gloves for viewings, while some sellers are refusing to let anyone in over continuing fears over coronavirus. 

People who want to sell their home will need to make sure they are out of their property while viewings take place and buyers and sellers should expect to delay moves if someone involved gets Covid-19. 

Housing Secretary Mr Jenrick and other Ministers hope today’s reopening of the housing market will be a significant boost to the economy amid the pandemic.

RightMove saw a 45 per cent increase in visits to its website this morning compared with yesterday morning, with its housing market expert Miles Shipside saying: ‘Home movers and estate agents are faced with perhaps the biggest ever change in the way that houses are marketed, viewed and surveyed.’ 

This six-bedroom detached house in Plymouth has been reduced from £550,000 on March 25 to £500,000 today 

This six-bedroom detached house in Bournemouth has been reduced from £825,000 on March 18 to £725,000 today

This four-bedroom house in Lytham St Annes, Lancashire was reduced from £459,000 to £435,000 today

House prices are now being cut, with examples today including a one-bedroom flat in Tooting, South London, down from £450,000 to £395,000

This three-bedroom semi-detached home in Birmingham was reduced from £250,000 on February 24 to £225,000 today

This three-bedroom semi-detached bungalow in Liverpool was reduced from £335,000 on March 13 to £320,000 today

A two-bedroom semi-detached bungalow in Leeds was reduced from £219,950 on February 12 to £209,950 today

At the top end of the market, a two-bedroom flat in Marylebone has been reduced from £5.25million to £4.95million today

A three-bedroom penthouse in this building in London’s Knightsbridge has dropped from £3million to £2.7million today

This three-bedroom terraced house in Tottenham, North London, has been reduced from £410,000 to £385,000 today

‘We pulled out and won’t move now’ 

James Staunton, 42,  with Charles, aged 3

James Staunton, 42, lives with his wife and two children in Farnham, Surrey and decided to pull out of his move as lockdown started. 

‘We were set to buy a larger property nearer to the kids’ school, albeit in the same town. But we were worried my earnings might be pruned in the downturn and that my wife’s hours might get cut back. 

‘That proved pretty prescient and we’re now glad we didn’t overstretch ourselves. In fact, we used some of the war chest we’d accumulated for the move to pay down 10 per cent of the mortgage on our current property. 

‘That’s made the monthly payments much easier to stomach. We’ve pulled out and we’re happy with that decision.’

‘We have been asked to wear masks and gloves’ 

Alex Hammond, 39 and boss of his own firm Also Communications, has been offered a viewing this Friday. 

He and his wife are looking to buy an investment property in Hastings.

‘We were sent the details of one we liked the look of on Monday and expressed our interest. 

‘Initially they said we were unable to undertake a physical inspection, but the estate agent contacted me last night suggesting a viewing on Friday. 

‘We can’t make Friday so are going to view the property on Monday. We have been asked to wear masks and gloves for the viewing.’ 

Among the properties added in recent hours is a lavish £24.5million four-bedroom apartment at the exclusive Mayfair Park Residences development in London.

How to do a viewing in the lockdown age 

Estate agents are asking prospective buyers or renters to wear protective masks and gloves when they go on property viewings in the coronavirus lockdown era.

Knight Frank has said it is better for homeowners to be outside the property during any tour – but if they want to remain in, then social distancing should be respected.

And estate agents James Pendleton said it had ‘all the necessary personal protective equipment ready to go’, with buyers and sellers keen to start viewing now.

Other properties just added in the capital include a £2.8million six-bedroom semi-detached home in Chiswick and a three-bedroom Hampstead flat for £1.9million. 

Estate agents across Britain have been told they can now reopen immediately, although they will be encouraged to make more use of ‘virtual viewings’ online.

Removal men have also been told they can get back to work as they were issued new guidance on working safely, including wearing masks and gloves.

And, in a move to kick-start the wider housing market, councils will be encouraged to let construction firms extend their working hours until 9pm, six days a week.

This will be in order to allow for the staggering of shifts and greater social distancing. Show homes will also be allowed to reopen.

 The package of measures is expected to free up an estimated 450,000 buyers and renters whose moves have been in limbo since the market was shut down in March.

This two-bedroom flat in Brighton has been reduced from £375,000 on February 19 to £350,000 today

A three-bedroom semi-detached house in Leicester has been reduced from £225,000 on March 20 to £220,000 today

A two-bedroom end of terrace in Bodmin, Cornwall, was reduced from £260,000 on November 22, 2019 to £250,000 today

A three-bedroom detached house in Carlisle has been reduced from £350,000 on December 24, 2019 to £325,000 today

This four-bedroom home in Hollywood, Birmingham was reduced from £315,000 in January 2020 to £299,950 today

The UK economy contracted by 2 per cent in the first quarter of 2020 after plunging 5.8 per cent in March

Alistair Elliott, senior partner at Knight Frank, spoke to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning about how estate agents will be able to return to work.

‘I am determined to move ahead with this purchase’

Joanne Robinson, 40, is a property lawyer who has been renting in London and has bought a property in Amersham to be closer to her work in Beaconsfield.

Before the housing market froze she had a sale agreed but had not exchanged contracts.

However, she managed to exchange on April 28 and now has a moving date set for May 29.

She said: ‘Despite all this disruption I am absolutely determined to move ahead with this purchase and push things through.

‘Moving from central London to Amersham is crucial for my work and the home I have bought is absolutely perfect for my needs now. Keeping in close dialogue with the current owner is helping to keep things alive and kicking.’

She has also successful secured a removal firm and says it will be a relief once she is in new home.

The home was originally marketed at £260,000, then reduced to £250,000 in December – and went for £247,000 in February.

The seller then agreed a further £2,000 reduction because her tenant did not vacate once notice has been served due to Covid-19.

Ms Robinson said: ‘That caused me some logistical additional cost which she agreed to halve with me, so not really reflective of market confidence.

‘I am a property lawyer and have been working throughout the pandemic. There have been very few price re-negotiations, I would say less than 2 per cent of my pipeline, and they have been more cantered around people’s own personal perception of risk, such as how they feel they ‘might’ be impacted post lockdown.’

He said: ‘Well eight weeks of lockdown has taught us a great deal, the most important lesson of all is that we can’t sell homes or rent them whilst in these circumstances.

‘Therefore lifting the ban on viewings and valuations for residential is a major first step and our customers are now able to visit our branches for renting or buying property whilst importantly respecting the social distancing measures.

‘We are implementing firm wide plans which have been developed over the period of lockdown to adapt to all of our premises, keep them clean, keep them safe. To ensure that safety of our teams and our clients are first and foremost protected.

‘And that being the case we believe the public will have confidence to reengage with the housing market and the enormous shift that has occurred in the market grinding to a halt will hopefully quite quickly reverse.’

Asked how it will work, he added: ‘We are hoping our teams will be able to visit premises. We will give those people whose homes we are visiting clear guidance as to what we feel they should do. It would be better if they weren’t in the property. 

‘If they feel they need to be in the property then social distancing will be respected at all times.

‘Similarly for those potential buyers and renters we will be giving them guidance into the protocols that will need to be in place to ensure everybody is kept safe.

‘Noting first and foremost that the government guidance will be followed every step of the way in respect of social distancing.’

He added that estate agents will have to ask someone if they have had coronavirus or symptoms of it, saying: ‘We simply have to ask the question.

‘It will be part of our policy, indeed it already is part of our policy that anyone who contacts us and requires any contact whatsoever.

‘It will be necessary for them to advise us of any symptoms they may have and if there are symptoms we will not be able to progress at that moment, until they have completed the appropriate period of isolation.’

Property surveyor Steve Nygate, who cycled to work on the Isle of Dogs from his home in Hackney today, told MailOnline he remained unclear about how the easing of lockdown would be implemented in the workplace.

He said: ‘It is difficult though as we are in unchartered territory each day as regards to coronavirus. I went onto the government’s website and then read that people are still not allowed into other households 

A three-bedroom semi-detached house in Wanstead, East London, has gone on the market in the past 24 hours for £800,000 as a glut of homes are rushed onto property websites

A two-bedroom terraced house in Abbey Wood, South East London, has also gone up in the last 24 hours for £350,000 as the Government reopened the property market during the lockdown

A three-bedroom end of terrace in Grove Park, South East London, has gone up in the past 24 hours for £475,000

Among the properties added in the past 24 hours to RightMove is a lavish £24.5million four-bedroom apartment at the exclusive Mayfair Park Residences development in London

Another property just added is a £2.8million six-bedroom semi-detached home in Chiswick

A three-bedroom flat in Hampstead, North West London, has just gone up for £1.9million

A 40% share in a one-bedroom apartment in Queensbury, North London, is on for £132,000

‘Then I read that estate agents can re-open with viewings allowed and I am very confused. I don’t know how that is going to work as far as carrying out surveys if there are still people in the properties and how the agents will resume viewings’.

One week of lockdown dealt the biggest ever economic hit to UK: GDP fell by a record 5.8% in March – the largest fall on record – and analysts expect WORSE to come 

The UK economy contracted by 2 per cent in the first quarter of 2020 after plunging 5.8 per cent in March – the largest fall on record – as analysts expect far worse to come.

The first quarter fall was the worst since the end of 2008 at the height of the financial crisis, while the March monthly drop marked a record tumble.

The latest figures – from the Office of National Statistics – show the first direct effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on the UK economy after the country was placed in lockdown to control the spread of the virus.

But with the lockdown only coming into place on March 23, the second quarter will show the full hit on the economy after the UK ground to a standstill.

The shocking figures come just a day after Chancellor Rishi Sunak extended the job subsidy scheme until the end of October and said the UK is already in recession. 

Jonathan Athow, deputy national statistician for economic statistics at the Office for National Statistics (ONS), told BBC’s Today programme there could be worse to come in the second quarter.

Mr Jenrick told the Mail: ‘The housing market is one of the most important sectors of the economy and the ability to move home is also important to people’s lives.

‘It has been totally frozen, but we have been working hard on a comprehensive plan to get it moving safely again and we are now in a position to enable a complete reopening of the housing market.’

The move came as Chancellor Rishi Sunak admitted Britain is already in recession, with new GDP today showing that the economy started to shrink in the first three months of this year, even before the full impact of the lockdown hit.

And there was a further blow as Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned that people were unlikely to be able to take a foreign holiday this summer.

Ministers effectively shut down the housing market on March 26, with a change in the law that banned move except where ‘reasonably necessary’.

Politicians said that, other than in exceptional circumstances, only those whose moves were already underway could complete their moves. 

Those who had already exchanged contracts were told to delay their completion date. And renters were told to stay put even if their tenancy agreement had run out.

The British Association of Removers urged removal firms to cancel or postpone ‘any move that had not yet started’. The clampdown saw the market close overnight.

But, with ministers now anxious to get the economy moving again, and construction firms warning there is no point building houses no-one can buy, the ban is now over. 

Estate agents are asked to see clients by appointment rather than allowing people to walk in off the street and to ensure social distancing measures are in place.

They will be encouraged to make use of ‘virtual viewings’ where possible, although physical viewings will also be allowed.

‘I want to move to be near my children and grandson’ 

Poppy Low, 72 and retired, lives in Harrogate, North Yorkshire. 

With one son living in London with her grandson and another based in Chipping Norton in Oxfordshire, she’s been hoping to move for the past six months so she can be nearer her family. Lockdown stopped her from putting her home on the market earlier this year. 

She said: ‘I’m feeling a lot more upbeat about things now that the government has said we can move, although I am still a bit worried about house prices. 

‘I’ve been on Rightmove practically every day during lockdown but there’s no new properties and also – how am I meant to know whether the prices they were asking for before the lockdown are still fair? 

‘It’s really hard to know what to do.’

Poppy is hoping to come down to stay for a week with her son Sean and his partner Tim in Chipping Norton so she can view properties.

‘I really want to get cracking with this move – I want to be nearer my family in the south of England and spend valuable time with my grandson. But I must say, it’s still a bit confusing. Especially with my age – I don’t know whether I should still be self-isolating?’

Poppy has already been in touch with her estate agent and has been told she can do virtual viewings of properties she might want to buy. 

‘It’s something, but it’s not really enough if I’m going to buy a house – I really need to have been round it.’  

Owners will be asked to leave the house or stand in the garden while viewings take place, and clients will be asked to avoid touching surfaces.

Mr Jenrick said ministers recognised the necessity of restarting the housing market for both economic and social reasons, adding: ‘Thousands of people have been stuck in limbo. Ow they will be able to get on with their lives.

‘Virtually no house moves have taken place in the last two months and people do need to move for all sorts of reasons such as work, being near to elderly relatives or because of changes like divorce.’

The Prime Minister this week urged the construction industry to get to work.

But industry leaders warned ministers that the housebuilding sector would not reopen while the housing market remained shut.

A new ‘Safe Working Charter’ has now been agreed with the industry to help get builders back to work.

And councils will be asked to consider requests to operate building sites until 9pm, Monday to Saturday to allow for staggered shifts.

Town halls will have to show ‘compelling reasons’ to refuse requests. But construction firms will be told to carry out noisy activities during ‘normal working hours’.

However the move to reopen the housing market has infuriated MailOnline columnist host Piers Morgan, who said on his ITV programme Good Morning Britain today: ‘So much of it seems nonsensical.

‘I can go and book 50 different appointments today to see 50 houses full of random families. If I wanted to buy a house quickly, technically I could go and do this.

‘I could spend all day going round 50 different homes, with different estate agents and 50 different families maintaining social distance in the houses.

‘And yet what I can’t do, if my parents are selling theirs, I can’t go around their house because that is against the law and I will be fined.’

Also today, two of Britain’s biggest housebuilders announced plans to remobilise.

Crest Nicholson said it would restart construction on its sites from next Monday, after similar moves from its rivals to do the same. 

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick (pictured at No10 on May 6) said the market is now reopen

It will give the company enough time to properly train its staff and make adjustments to safety on the sites, which have been closed since the start of April.

Estate agent forecasts house prices will fall 7% – but Bank of England predicts a 16% decline 

House prices are forecast to fall 7 per cent this year, according to a leading estate agent.

Property values are likely to have already fallen by 5 per cent since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, as the market ground to a halt, according to revised forecasts from Knight Frank.

But its predicted drop is considerably less than the Bank of England’s forecast last week that house prices in Britain would fall 16 per cent due to the coronavirus crisis.

Since the Government announcement that Britain will fully exit lockdown only by the end of July at the earliest, Knight Frank now predicts a bigger slump than it thought at the beginning of April, when it assumed restrictions would be lifted at the end of May.

It has now penciled in a 7 per cent fall across the country, compared to a previous 3 per cent decline, and a 5 per cent fall in prime London locations, where it initially had forecast no change since they are already 20 per cent lower than in 2014.

Taylor Wimpey, which has already restarted construction, said its show homes and sales centres would start opening again from next Friday.

Customers will be able to pre-book appointments, the housebuilder said. It said that construction has already restarted on a majority of its sites in England and Wales.

Around £82 billion of transactions are thought to be on hold in the property market.

Taylor Wimpey said that its sales rates had remained stable since it announced plans to restart construction three weeks ago. There have been signs of increased activity in the last week.

It sold 408 homes during the lockdown period, and has an order book worth around £2.7 billion.

Most of its furloughed sales staff will be recalled by May 18, with the majority of other furloughed workers back before the end of the month.

Among those on Twitter commenting on the housing market’s return was one man who said: ‘I put a flat on the market to raise some funds – £190,000, just about to exchange and lockdown came in.

‘Now the guy is offering £175,000 and estate agent says take it as who knows what’s moving on the market for next six to 12 months.’ 

Another wrote: ‘Other half has booked us in for house viewings already. I’m not too comfortable about it, but will be as safe as poss. 

‘I think we’re viewing empties anyway. Estate agent has asked us to wear face masks.’ 

And a third said: ‘I have my house on the market and naturally no viewings allowed. However I see the housing market it open for business again.

‘As much as I want to get on with it I won’t. I cannot see my Daughter and Grandson together yet I can let strangers into my house. This makes no sense.’

Others joked that they would put their house on the market just so their children or grandchildren could come and visit.

One said: ‘Problem solved. If my mum lists her house for sale all her children and grandchildren can book a viewing and go and see her.’

Lucy Pendleton, property expert at estate agents James Pendleton, said: ‘It’s a brave new world but the viewings must go on. We’ve got all the necessary PPE ready to go, and buyers and sellers keen to start viewing straight away. We’re just waiting to hear what the government’s detailed guidelines are.

VICTORIA BISCHOFF: We need a better plan to lift the property market out of the lockdown deep freeze 

Who would want to be a home buyer or seller at this time?

Hundreds of thousands of families have been stuck in limbo since the property market was all but frozen at the end of March.

Only those who stood to lose vast sums of money if they reneged on their contracts, and those moving into empty properties, have been allowed to push ahead. But now the buyers and sellers forced to put their plans on ice want answers.

Many have growing families and desperately need more space, some are relocating for work, or are first-time buyers whose extra rent bills are eating into their deposit.

No doubt they were bitterly disappointed not to hear even a whisper of how we might get the housing market started in the Government’s lockdown exit plan announced on Monday.

The good news is that ministers are finally waking up to the fact that they must take action.

And, as we report today , with some careful social distancing we could easily get people moving again — even if it means wearing a mask and gloves to view a house.

Some estate agents have been trying to keep the market alive by offering virtual viewings. But most of us wouldn’t even think about purchasing a property without seeing it in person.

Crucially, we need physical valuations to resume in order to clear a vast backlog of mortgage applications. And removal firms must be confident that they can get people from A to B safely.

In March, banks pledged to extend mortgage offers for at least three months. Perhaps more should be following in the footsteps of Barclays and TSB and extending offers for six months.

Given the importance of the £7 trillion housing market to the UK economy, keeping it alive must be a priority.

‘Agents have been desperate to get back to business, and an explicit mention for the sector in the government’s lockdown strategy on Monday was noticeable by its absence. 

‘You could almost hear the collective sigh of relief when news that agents could get back to work trickled out late yesterday afternoon.

‘It’s fantastic news that agents aren’t going to have to wait until July to start showing properties properly again, as we will find out sooner rather than later whether some of the more dire predictions for the housing market will come true. In London, we have seen absolutely no sign of the conditions that would normally precipitate a marked fall in prices. We expect a similar picture to be playing out across the country.

‘Lack of supply exacerbated by sellers delaying their moves until after the pandemic has eased significantly is going to put a floor under prices, much like it did during the Brexit negotiations. Borrowing rates are extremely low too and that’s going to boost buying power.’

And David Westgate, chief executive at Andrews Property Group, said: ‘Moving home is a highly emotive process and the reignition of the property market on Wednesday will help boost the nation’s spirits.

‘Adherence to social distancing and the highest safety standards will be absolutely paramount and all precautions will be taken to protect people viewing property, including through the use of PPE equipment where appropriate.

‘There are differing views on how the property market will shape up as the lockdown is gradually eased but we expect to see significant activity moving forward with a huge initial surge in pent-up demand.’ 

Meanwhile Andrew Montlake, managing director at mortgage broker Coreco, said: ‘Demand is certainly still there. We have received a lot more enquiries in May, with many people now looking to move to more rural areas given the perceived reduced risk from future peaks and pandemics.

‘Clearly it’s essential that firms do not rush their staff back before they have the requisite safety measures in place, although all the agents we speak to are adhering to the very highest standards.

‘It’s vital that all those working in the property industry, as well as buyers and sellers, landlords and tenants, are kept as safe as possible.

‘This is a chance for everyone in the property market to show their professionalism and lead from the front.’

You can move house again! Here is everything you need to know to get your move back on the road 

It’s official – the Government said last night that hundreds of thousands of property transactions that had stalled amid lockdown could restart from today. 

The official guidance strongly advises those looking to buy and sell to do online viewings where possible but, crucially, surveyors will be permitted to go to properties to do mortgage valuations and building surveys for prospective buyers.

It will be welcome news for the estimated 450,000 buyers and sellers stuck in property limbo who will now be able to exchange contracts and complete on purchases.

But guidance published on the Government’s website warns that buying and selling a home will not return to ‘normal’ in England. 

It says: ‘The process of finding and moving into a new home will need to be different given those involved in the process will have to adapt practices and procedures to ensure that the risk of spread of coronavirus is reduced as far as possible.

‘This will include doing more of the process online, such as virtual initial viewings; vacating your current property whilst other people are shown around; and ensuring your property is thoroughly cleaned before someone else moves in.

‘We encourage all parties involved to be as flexible as possible over this period and be prepared to delay moves, for example if someone becomes ill with coronavirus during the moving process or has to self-isolate.’

Government has also warned that it may ‘become necessary to pause all home moves for a short period of time’ to manage the spread of the coronavirus. 

NAEA Propertymark’s Mark Hayward said he was ‘pleased’ with the housing announcements so far, adding: ‘The return to work needs to be done in a safe and practical way.’

But what does that mean? Will estate agents open their doors immediately? Will you be allowed to travel to view properties? 

This is Money has pored over the small print and spoken to the experts to find answers to all your questions.   

I want to restart my sale – what should I do?

Contact your estate agent to find out how they’re approaching restarting viewings. 

Many have said already that they are prepared to do physical viewings from today, following the guidance released by Government last night.

There are strict guidelines however – you’ll need to be out of the house while people are viewing it. Social distancing rules still apply and many agents are saying that all parties will need to wear masks and gloves while in a property.

Virtual viewings will still be used initially and you’ll need to ensure your property is thoroughly cleaned before someone else moves in. 

Be prepared to expect delayed moves if someone involved gets coronavirus and no-one should be moving into any home where people have coronavirus or are self-isolating.

Will I need to get my home revalued? 

There’s been a lot of talk about the effect of lockdown on house prices, so be prepared for a conversation about your asking price.

That said, estate agents are expecting a big surge in enquiries from prospective buyers so, depending on the condition and location of your property, there may be sufficient interest to support your original asking price. 

Indeed Rightmove said this morning it’s seen a 45 per cent increase in visits to its website today compared to yesterday. Your estate agent will be able to advise you on the best approach to take. 

I want to start viewing properties this weekend – is this possible?

Yes – though within pretty strict guidelines. Whether you can view a property in person will depend on whether there is an agent available to conduct the viewing and also on whether the person selling is happy to have people into their home. 

It’s unlikely that a huge rush of people will be comfortable having a string of strangers through their home at the moment, but if properties are empty or vendors are happy to be out while the viewing takes place, it may well be possible.  

Sean Herdman-Low, senior negotiator at Maxwell’s Estate Agents in Banbury, says: ‘As well as getting the housing market and the economy back on track, the most important thing for us is to make sure that we are all safe, including staff and all clients. 

‘We will be working with all of our vendors to set up safe ways of conducting viewings and only if they are comfortable to do so. We have got gloves and masks for everyone to use and will of course be ensuring social distancing rules are followed throughout.’ 

He adds that virtual viewings are also going to remain in place and have a vital role to play for some time to come. 

‘They have proved very popular and easy to do,’ he says. ‘We will be aiming to do them on most of our properties from now on and ensure they look professional. We know from our marketing that videos get brilliant engagement online and on social media so it makes sense to continue with this. 

‘We have had some real successes with virtual tours with a sale being agreed and houses coming to the market totally virtually.’ 

I had agreed a purchase before lockdown – does this mean we can now move?  

Yes, though you’ll need to find a removal firm willing to do the move if you need help. They are out there.  

Joanne Robinson, 40, is a property lawyer who has been renting in London and has bought a property in Amersham to be closer to her work in Beaconsfield.

Before the housing market froze she had a sale agreed but had not exchanged contracts.

However, she managed to exchange on April 28 and now has a moving date set for May 29.

She says: ‘Despite all this disruption I am absolutely determined to move ahead with this purchase and push things through.

‘Moving from central London to Amersham is crucial for my work and the home I have bought is absolutely perfect for my needs now. Keeping in close dialogue with the current owner is helping to keep things alive and kicking.’

She has successfully secured a removal firm and says it will be a relief once she is in her new home. 

I want to buy my first home but haven’t got a mortgage agreed – can I now start the process?

Yes – most mortgage brokers and lenders have been able to conduct interviews and conversations over the phone or online already. 

Indeed, Banbury-based mortgage broker Vantage Mortgages has remained busy throughout the lockdown.

Adam Messer, who heads up the firm, says: ‘Mortgage lenders have remained open throughout and rates are still as low as they have been for a long time. Demand has stayed strong with clients still needing to remortgage and purchase applications going in to lenders.’ 

Many mortgage lenders had curbed their willingness to offer new mortgages, especially to those with a smaller deposit. 

But now that surveyors are allowed into properties to conduct mortgage valuations, it’s possible they’ll be more comfortable offering mortgages from now on.  

Jeni Browne, director of mortgage broker Mortgages for Business, said: ‘Mortgage lenders and, indeed mortgage brokers, are open for new applications so there is nothing to stop you getting a mortgage agreement in principle. 

‘Likewise, having an agreement is not a prerequisite to viewing property but you will find it hard to get an offer accepted without one.’

An agreement in principle is usually quick to obtain – sometimes even instant – so if you jumped on this today, you may be able to lock into a super cheap deal as rates are at their lowest ever at the moment. 

However, experts are also warning that pent-up demand could see mortgages take longer to get sorted.

‘We recommend that buyers get their finances in order as soon as possible as processing times may take longer than usual as lenders deal with a flurry of applications,’ says Chris Sykes, a mortgage broker for Private Finance.

‘There is still limited availability of high loan-to-value mortgages at 90 per cent and above and those heavily reliant on bonuses or commission may need to widen their search of lender, but this is where expert advice is extremely valuable.’ 

My sale stalled because the mortgage lender couldn’t get a valuation done – when is this now likely to happen?

Some lenders have already announced that their valuers are going to be carrying out physical inspections as soon as possible, albeit within certain guidelines. 

In that case, there is a chance a valuation could be imminent. However, not all lenders have made this decision so it may be worth just checking whether going to a new lender could expedite matters for you. 

If the property is more specialist – say where a landlord is looking to buy an HMO, house in multiple occupation – a physical survey has to take place. 

‘We may still be a few weeks away from getting the application unstuck in that type of instance,’ says Browne. 

‘Speak to your broker who will be able to keep you up to date as the market opens up and can advise whether there are alternative lenders who can move quicker for you.’ 

Because no valuations have taken place since 23 March, there is going to be a big backlog to deal with so be patient. 

There will be delays to all sales but with mortgage valuations in person now permitted, transactions that have gone awry will slowly get back on track.  

‘The timing around valuation will depend somewhat on how much you want to borrow and whether your mortgage can be based on an automatic or desktop valuation,’ says Browne. 

‘There will inevitably be a backlog as valuers start to get back out so if you will need a physical valuation so I’d would advise getting into the queue as soon as possible.’

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