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The property market is open – here’s everything you can still do

When the UK entered its first coronavirus lockdown in March 2020, the property market ground to a sudden halt.

On Monday, a third lockdown was announced but with one major difference to last spring – the property market remains open. But can you actually still move home, or view properties to buy or rent and what will happen with the current stamp duty ‘holiday’ in England?

We answer all those key questions and more below…

Can I view property to buy or rent during lockdown?

The property market is open for business, so viewings can still take place.

However, all estate and letting agents and those viewing properties to rent or buy must make everyone’s health and safety a priority and stick to rules on hygiene and social distancing, while also conducting viewings virtually where possible.

What safety measures are in place during viewings?

Where possible, viewings should be virtual and we’re also carrying out our initial market appraisals remotely by video call here at Martin & Co.

We’re also:

• Offering virtual viewings where possible

• Limiting in-person property viewings to two members of the same household

• Undertaking cleaning of surfaces before and after viewings

• Maintaining social distancing where possible during viewings

• Providing hand sanitiser or hand washing facilities during viewings

• Using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

I have a sale going through. Should I be worried?

With the market remaining open, there’s no direct reason to be concerned if you’re currently selling your home.

Solicitors have been largely working remotely since the first lockdown in March 2020 and although conveyancing and searches are, in some cases, taking longer than they would in normal times, sales are still going through.

• More than 115,000 sales were recorded in November 2020 – 19.3% more than in November 2019, according to HMRC

• The 12 months of 2020 saw 9% more sales agreed than 2019, according to Zoopla

• More than 104,000 mortgages were approved in November 2020 – the highest number since August 2007, reported the Bank of England

• Zoopla reported 40% more demand for property in 2020 than the previous year – despite the spring lockdown

Rightmove, however, reported in December that 650,000 properties were changing hands, so some delays to sales should be expected.

I’m buying a home – can I still move during the lockdown?

You can still move home during the lockdown.

Estate agents can still operate, alongside solicitors, conveyancers and lenders. Removals companies can also still operate and enter people’s homes during the lockdown, as long as they take health and safety precautions and stick to guidelines on hygiene and social distancing. Mortgage valuations and surveys can also still take place, under the same guidelines.

Can I still find a new rental property during lockdown?

Viewings of rental properties can still take place during the latest lockdown.

You should adhere to guidelines on social distancing and hygiene when viewing rental properties and view virtually where possible in the first instance. We’re here to help and our priority is to keep everyone safe. More details on the steps we’re taking during viewings can be read here.

I’m a landlord – can I still rent out my property to a new tenant during the shutdown?

Property lettings can still take place during lockdown. Landlords and letting agents can also:

• Invite trades into rental properties to carry out essential maintenance as long as it is safe to do so and Covid-19 guidance is followed

• Perform cleaning between tenancies and check-in / check-out inventories while taking steps to limit social contact

• Undertake viewings of rental properties with social distancing and hygiene measures in place, but these should be done virtually where possible and ideally when the property is vacant

Is the stamp duty holiday still due to end in March?

Changes to stamp duty were made in July, after the spring 2020 lockdown, but are due to end on March 31 this year. Currently, the first £500,000 of a property’s purchase price is stamp duty-free for all buyers, although those buying second homes or buy-to-let properties will still have to pay a 3% surcharge.

From April 1, stamp duty is expected to revert back to its previous exemption rate of £125,000 and £300,000 for first-time buyers.

However, with the latest lockdown in place, calls have been made for an extension to or phased removal of the stamp duty ‘holiday’ beyond the end of March.

Is the property market busy despite the restrictions?

The changes to stamp duty in July were brought in to stimulate the property market after it was shut down during the spring 2020 lockdown.

That, and huge pent-up demand labelled a ‘race for space’ after that first lockdown, saw the market bounce backs strongly during the summer, autumn and winter.

• UK property prices grew by 7.5% in 2020, according to Nationwide

• 40,000 sales were agreed in just one month between May 13 and June 13

• Rightmove recorded six million visits on January 4, 2021 – the portal’s busiest day since September 2020

• Visits to Rightmove in December 2020 were 57% higher than the same period in 2019, while Boxing Day saw a 54% rise in visitors compared with the previous year

Rightmove predicts further property price growth of 4% in 2021, with the market continuing to defy the pandemic. And with the stamp duty ‘holiday’ set to end on March 31, buyers are still hugely active as they seek to beat the deadline.

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