Have your moving house plans been brought to a halt by the lockdown? If so, you can now re-start the process. Yesterday, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick announced that, from today, anyone in England can move home if they follow the new Government guidance.
Since lockdown restrictions were implemented in March, more than 450,000 people have been unable to progress their plans to move house. The government hopes to re-start the market and get buyers, sellers and renters moving again.
Clearly, this announcement doesn’t mean a return to normality – far from it. The process of finding and moving into a new home will be different and that now includes doing more of the process online. Initial viewings will be virtual and vendors will be asked to keep away while potential buyers are shown around. Properties must also be thoroughly cleaned before someone else moves in. So good news for commercial cleaning companies used by landlords and block managers.
After seven weeks in lockdown, the announcement is welcome news for the property industry as well as for buyers, sellers and renters. Ringley Group MD Maryanne Bowring said today: “There’s no reason buyers or renters shouldn’t be able to move home if they are able to do so safely in accordance with social distancing guidelines”. However, she is quick to point to the fact that this doesn’t mean the housing market has returned to its pre-coronavirus state.
Lockdown is set to continue in some form for an unknown amount of time and the resulting economic disruption is likely to weigh down on activity in the for-sale market. A stamp duty holiday, as proposed by RICS and others (see our 29 April blog for more details) could see a stampede in transactions while an extended Help to Buy will support some sales and in turn housebuilding.
Maryanne thinks the Government now has an opportunity to think long term and introduce policies to reflect Britain’s changing housing needs. “Private renters are a fast-growing part of the housing market and need catering to,” she says, “yet politicians seem intent in squeezing buy to let landlords out of the rental market and the build to rent sector – a positive emergence – simply isn’t big enough yet to absorb all rental demand.
“If the government cuts stamp duty surcharge for landlords it could help stimulate the market by encouraging BTL investors to snap up homes to then rent out. Many landlords also help support housebuilding through off-plan sales,” she adds
The housing market as a whole will also have to get ready for a digital-first approach to transactions as more tasks and jobs are done remotely.