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81% of first-time buyers rejected for a mortgage since Covid outbreak

Covid

Only 19% of prospective first-time buyers were able to get a mortgage on the first attempt over the past 12 months, representing a huge change from the 48% that were able to pre-Covid-19, according to new data from Aldermore.

Two fifths (38%) were rejected for a mortgage once, whereas 43% say they were rejected for a mortgage more than once. This shows a significant shift from pre-Covid-19 when a third (36%) reported being rejected once and only 17% said they had been rejected more than once

The research shows that first-time buyers are now more likely to be rejected for multiple reasons, rather than just one. The main reason for a rejected mortgage application was that the prospective buyer has poor credit history (41%), up from 19% in March 2020.

Other top reasons included deposit size (39%), not being on the electoral roll (39%), administrative error (35%), and being self-employed or a contract worker (33%).

Over a quarter (28%) of first-time buyers say credit history is a big concern, with 39% looking to actively improve their credit score to increase their chances of securing a mortgage. One in five (19%) now worry that their credit rating has gotten worse since the Covid-19 outbreak.

The main credit-related barriers affecting first time buyers applying for a mortgage are having an overdraft (34%), a gap in employment (31%), student loans (26%) and credit card debt (23%). There is also a noteworthy proportion that have more significant credit issues with nearly a quarter (23%) having an account handled by collection agencies, one in nine (14%) having taken out a payday loan, 12% having a CCJ and 9% having a bankruptcy in their past.

Prospective first-time buyers are now actively improving their credit with half (51%) ensuring they pay bills on time, 37% recently registering to be on the electoral roll, 28% actively paying off debt, and 24% paying down their overdrafts. Other credit rating improvement initiatives include closing unused credit cards (21%), seeking debt advice (15%) and paying off a student loan (15%).

Jon Cooper, head of mortgage distribution at Aldermore, said: “The data shows that the pandemic has added to already challenging conditions for those trying to get on the housing ladder but first-time buyers should not despair.

“Being declined for a mortgage, even though it can be a deflating experience, is not game over as options have broadened over the past decade. The growth of specialist lenders, that through human underwriting can dig into the detail of more complicated applications, have opened the door for those with complicated income streams or credit issues in their past to find a pathway to home ownership.”

Original Article from Financial Reporter 30/04/2021

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The conveyancing industry at breaking point?

conveyancing

When Chancellor Rishi Sunak delivered the 2021 Spring Budget on 3 March, the property sector listened with bated breath. We were eager to find out what approach the Government would take: would it continue with temporary relief measures to support homebuyers amid the pandemic? Or would it choose to bring these policies to an end in order to focus on tackling public debt?

Of course, the Chancellor opted for the former. Most notably, Mr Sunak announced that the Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) holiday would be extended until 30 June. This means that for three more months, homebuyers are able to take advantage of the tax relief if purchasing real estate in England or Northern Ireland.

Introduced in July 2020, the stamp duty holiday has certainly kicked the property market back into gear, and the extension has fuelled activity further. According to MoneySuperMarket, first-time buyer enquiries increased by 472% in the first week of March when compared to the first week of February. Rightmove also received over 9 million site visits on the day the extension was announced – the highest volume of daily traffic recorded.

This is welcoming news for the Government. After all, the aim of the holiday was to ensure the market was buoyant and there was a boom in transactional activity, which should improve the health of the wider economy as the country transitions out of lockdown. The big challenge now, however, is ensuring that as many buyers as possible can actually complete on their transactions before the holiday deadline.

There is understandably a great of focus at the moment on the delays many buyers are facing when applying for mortgages. However, we should not overlook the strain being felt by those involved elsewhere in the property transaction process – most notably, conveyancing.

Under pressure

In the early months of 2021, it was clear conveyancers were under significant pressure to complete as many property transactions as possible prior to the original SDLT holiday deadline on 31 March. The extension provided some relief, but in reality, this has only delayed the inevitable bottleneck of sales that conveyancers will have to manage prior to end of June.

The effects are already on display. An in-depth analysis of public data by GetAgent.co.uk revealed that the total time to sell a property – from the initial listing to the completion of the sale as recorded by the Land Registry – is now sitting at an average of 295 days. It also noted that while sales are being agreed to, the delays arise at the closing stages of the transaction when the necessary legal work needs to be completed. Suddenly, a three-month extension of the holiday does not seem that long.

As with any line of work, the introduction of high demand and tight deadlines can drastically increase the chances of human error. What’s more, given the number of parties involved in a transaction, delays at one stage of the buying process can lead to frustrations and mounting pressure on other stakeholders. The fallout is significant – in the worst-case scenario, a buyer could ultimately miss out on tax savings of up to £15,000 if their purchase is not completed by the end of the SDLT holiday.

From a policy standpoint, it would make sense to extend the SDLT further or initiate policy so that sales agreed to prior to the 30 June will still qualify for the tax relief, even if the sale is not finalised until after this date. Unfortunately, this does not look like it will be the case.

For conveyancers, then, they must look elsewhere for a solution to the problem. Specifically, they must openly embrace technology to ensure they can streamline existing processes and communicate transparently and effectively with all parties involved in the transaction. By doing so, they will also reduce the chances of human error or unforeseen complications. Fortunately, the adoption of technology by conveyancing firms is not a new phenomenon; it is a trend that had already taken hold prior to the pandemic but has since been accelerated due to Covid-19.

Embracing technology at a time of need

As with large sections of the property industry, conveyancing firms have slowly been coming to realise the benefits of technology in delivering a superior service or achieving efficiency gains. The initial resistance to technology by conveyancing firms was not a stance taken by choice. Rather, I believe it was more of a consequence of these firms simply not having the knowledge.

Yet the pandemic, in preventing human interactions and travel, has driven home the value of technology. For example, eSignatures and automated communication can shave days off a transaction. Client onboarding, which typically takes around two weeks, can now be completed in as little as 40 minutes by embracing digital solutions. 

Taking all this into account, technological innovations like these are permanently transforming how conveyancers function. And the timing couldn’t be better, with the SDLT holiday naturally making it near impossible for conveyancers to meet demand if relying on outdated practices.

All that being said, I call for the property sector to be understanding of the pressures faced by one another at the moment. Every organisation is doing what it can to ensure transactions are completed before the deadline, even with the obstacles posed by the pandemic. That’s why InfoTrack is backing the industry’s ‘call for kindness campaign’, which asks solicitors and conveyancers to be mindful of their peers. We live in extraordinary times, and these coming months are set to be a busy period for everyone.

Overall, buyers and sellers are seeing first-hand just how technology can be used to simplify all parts of their lives. Naturally, these expectations are spilling over into the property and finance sectors. That’s why it is safe to assume that we will be seeing significant investment into technology beyond the SDLT holiday period by conveyancers. Doing so will ultimately serve to benefit the property sector as a whole.

Original Article from Financial Reporter 06/04/2021

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Post Lockdown House Move in Chelmsford? Here’s What to Expect

Post lockdown

In May, the UK government started the process of easing lockdown restrictions. Along with allowing people to exercise outdoors for longer and sunbathe in parks, they also reopened the housing market, which is excellent news for those who have been waiting to move home, and especially those who are keen to sell their property.

If you’re planning on selling your home in Chelmsford, with property market guidance from the Government constantly changing, you may have no idea what to expect. The good news? Essex Homes And Lettings can help guide you through the process to ensure everything is done safely. While the process will be slightly different, there’s no reason why your property sale should be held up if you follow government advice. Here’s what to expect:

You can officially put your house in Chelmsford on the market

It’s now possible to put your Chelmsford property on the market. This means that we can also visit your home (with social distancing rules and PPE in place) to take any photos and videos of the property. However, if you or any member of your household are displaying any Covid-19 symptoms or are self-isolating, please let us know as we will not be visiting the property until everyone is symptom-free.

Have you sold your house? If any of the parties involved in the transaction start to show any symptoms of coronavirus, the safest and smartest thing to do would be to delay the move. Speak to your legal adviser if needed to ensure that your contract is flexible and accommodates for this risk.

Prepare for virtual viewings

Virtual viewings will maximise the number of people you can show your property to without risking anyone’s health. Don’t worry if you have no idea where to get started or are worried you don’t have the right equipment to make this happen! We can help you organise this. 

You can hire removal firms to help you move house

Once your house is sold and you’re ready to move, seek out a good removal company to help. Removal firms are in operation and they can help ensure that your move is carried out as safely as possible following Government guidelines.

Before you vacate your property, clean it all thoroughly. This includes all your belongings that will be handled by movers as well as all surfaces within your home.

Property surveys can be done via appointment

If you didn’t get a chance to get your property surveyed pre-lockdown, it’s now possible to get this done. Arrange an inspection with a surveyor so you can ensure only one person is visiting at a time. All surveyors will be following government guidance and social distancing from all those living in your home. Again, inspections will not be possible in households where someone is showing coronavirus symptoms.

Not quite sure where to find a surveyor? Get in touch with us and we will be able to help you arrange an inspection.

Spruce up your online listing

Although we’re currently in a time of economic uncertainty, demand for housing will slowly but surely increase as things get back to normal. If you’re worried about your property staying on the market for too long, consult us to see what can be done to promote your listing. You may need to do a little home staging to make your listing stand out. 

Take the necessary safety measures to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus

All house moves and property sales must follow the necessary social distancing and safety rules. From viewings to removals, you can find official government guidance for every step of the process. This includes the following advice:

  • First viewings should be conducted virtually where possible. We can help you arrange this
  • Don’t hold any open house viewings – limit real-life viewings to members of the same household
  • Sanitise all surfaces before any physical viewings. Open all internal doors so door handles don’t need to be touched
  • Provide access to hand sanitiser that viewers can use before they go around the house
  • Vacate your property when viewings are taking place to minimise contact with members of another household

If you’re worried about spreading the virus during the process of your house sale, speak to our expert and friendly team at Essex Homes And Lettings to discuss what extra measures you can put in place. We can be contacted on 01245398466 or sales@essexhomesandlettings.co.uk.

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Will Covid-19 change the nature of property valuation?

Valuation

The process of evaluating the value of any given piece of property is often misunderstood.

Buyers and sellers can easily access rough estimates of a property’s value through online platforms. However, these estimates are normally simply derived from previously sold real estate of the same size in the same area. There is little consideration of the individual property’s specific features or quality, let alone broader market analysis.

Depending on the type of valuation, land value, building costs, sales comparisons and income capitalisation are all integral to determining the right market value of a piece of property or land. As such, organisations such as the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) provide a vital function in giving qualifications to surveyors who understand the complexity of this process.

However, Covid-19 has thrown a proverbial spanner in the works of the surveying industry.

Social distancing requirements have made it increasingly difficult for property professionals to access properties and conduct thorough valuations. Not only has this forced such professionals to rely on “virtual valuations”; but the shifting demands of businesses, renters and buyers during Covid-19 risk impacting the accuracy of valuations conducted pre-pandemic.

The pros and cons of virtual valuations

Virtual valuations have become a necessity in the era of Covid. Research conducted by property listing site Zoopla in June showed that only 2% of buyers and sellers would be happy to have their properties valued in-person. As a result, the number of virtual valuations has increased by 90%.

By the owner giving a real-time tour of their property to an agent or valuer via video call, professionals can determine the general condition and size of the property in question. Though not as precise as in-person valuations, such compromise allows for both agents and lenders to move forward with the necessary tasks involved in a transaction.

However, there are drawbacks. Poor lighting can hide various issues regarding a property’s condition, and camera lenses can distort our perspective of space and size. The onus will also be on the camera operator, who – if they are the owner – may wish to hide certain aspects of their property from the surveyor in order to secure a higher valuation.

Regardless, much of the data that will inform a valuation will still be accessible whatever the outcome of the virtual tour. Through floor plans and analysing the sales of comparable properties in the area, much of the crucial work can be accomplished with little to no information from the seller.

So, in general, there is no reason to doubt the legitimacy of virtual valuations. Although they will never allow for the same level of understanding as in-person valuations; they represent a crucial tool in keeping the UK’s property sector moving throughout the novel coronavirus pandemic. There is good reason to expect them to remain in the years to come, too, when time or logistical constraints render a physical visit difficult.

Changing demands, changing values

As mentioned above, social trends have been radically altered by Covid-19. And in the property sector, shifting demands will have an impact on valuations.

For example, the shift towards remote working and the social distancing issues regarding in-person socialisation mean that people are spending much more time in the homes. As a result, many buyers and renters are now seeking larger, more spacious homes from which to work from.

This was confirmed by estate agents Dexters’ July survey, which asked buyers what their “non-negotiable” demands were when it comes to real estate. The new top requirements in the age of Covid were a spare room that can be converted into a home office and, secondly, outside space such as a balcony, terrace, or garden.

Despite recent positive news regarding Covid-19 vaccine development, it is likely that working from home will remain the norm for a majority of professionals in the years to come. Unshackled from the grind of the daily commute, suburban and rural properties further afield from one’s employer will likely increase in desirability among newly homebound employees.

These trends will undoubtedly affect property valuations. Of course, a key part of the technical training required to be certified in valuing real estate is understanding how the real estate market is constantly shifting, and how this may affect the accurate value of any given piece of land or real estate.

In the face of such notable change, the core traditional training that surveyors must undergo is actually more important than ever. Only those equipped with the knowledge and wisdom needed to adapt to sudden property market shifts can continue to accurately value properties for the foreseeable future.

Original Article from Financial Reporter 25/11/2020

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Market boom goes on according to strong mortgage search figures

strong mortgage figures

A mortgage technology platform has released figures suggesting the housing market remains strong, with high numbers of searches by buyers for the best loans.

Twenty7Tec’s latest figures show the state of the mortgage market after the second week of the latest England lockdown.

Weekly mortgage online search volumes are currently at 87.33 per cent of the year’s highest figure, down just 0.5 per cent on the previous week.

Specifically, owner occupation mortgage search volumes are at 85.94% of the year’s high, down 1.9 per cent on the week before, while buy to let mortgage search volumes are at 94.18 per cent of the year’s high, up 2.3 per cent on the previous week.

“Any drop in mortgage demand prior to lockdowns – and we have seen this each time regionally and nationally – is offset as soon as the actual lockdown begins. The demand doesn’t want to stay pent up for too long explains James Tucker, chief executive of Twenty7Tec.

“This week is traditionally very busy in the run up to the peak period that runs from beginning October to mid-December. This year, two factors have combined to make it even busier: the stamp duty holiday end date and the longer lead times to get a mortgage approved. 

“We believe that these factors will sustain the levels of searches and documents for at least the next three weeks. It’s worth remembering that we are still at least 10 per cent busier now for both residential and buy to let than we were in our busy springtime.”

He adds: “Buy to let had a definite slump in the run up to lockdown 2.0 and troughed on November 4, the day this second lockdown began. However, since that low, on a seven-day rolling average, we’ve seen quite a return of buy to let search volumes and a smaller but definite recovery in buy to let documents being prepared.

“Buy to let currently forms 19.76 per cent of all searches in the past week and 21.33 per cent of all documents prepared against in the past week. Buy to let searches volumes currently form slightly less than the long term average of market activity – 20.49 per cent and just above average for documentation 21.13 per cent.”

Original Article from Estate Agent Today 23/11/2020

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Does being Covid-safe at home artificially lift house prices?

house prices

A leading market analyst says the widespread belief that we are ‘safe’ in our homes may indirectly lead to the recent surge in house prices, which appears to show no sign of abating.

Anthony Codling – the analyst who shot to fame for his searing critique of the sales performance of Purplebricks – has in recent weeks gone on the record querying why the housing market appears to be bucking the pessimistic mood of the country over the economy and Coronavirus.

“It is not clear why house prices should rise as the economy weakens and lockdown II looms large” he says in a statement released over the weekend.

He then goes on to give a possible answer to his query: “Perhaps being told we are safer at home gives us false confidence in the value of our homes?” he asks. 

Codling, who is now chief executive of PropTech firm TwinDig, goes on to warn: “One thing is clear – as furlough ends, redundancies increase and second waves rise there will be is less to be cheerful about than the house price headlines suggest.”

His warning comes in the wake of the latest index showing a soaring market.

Nationwide says house prices have risen at their fastest pace in almost six years, with the average price of a UK home at another record high of £227,826 in October.

The annual prise rise has been 5.8 per cent, the highest rate of growth since January 2015.

However, even this bullish snapshot carries a warning over future unemployment and possible lockdowns from Nationwide’s chief economist, Robert Gardner, who admits: “The outlook remains highly uncertain and will depend heavily on how the pandemic and the measures to contain it evolve, as well as the efficacy of policy measures implemented to limit the damage to the wider economy.

“Behavioural shifts as a result of Covid-19 may provide support for housing market activity, while the stamp duty holiday will continue to provide a near-term boost by bringing purchases forward.”

Meanwhile leading agent Jeremy Leaf – the former RCS residential faculty chairman who also runs his own north London agency – says he has noticed a slowdown of sorts. 

“We’re seeing fewer viewings, offers and longer transition times as lenders and conveyancers struggle with the backlog. However, we haven’t yet experienced widespread price re-negotiation or withdrawals from previously-agreed deals. 

“That feverish buying and selling of late summer has been replaced by activity at a pace we might have otherwise expected at this time of year.”

And Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, says: “The stamp duty holiday has clearly stimulated the market, combined with the impact of Covid and the desire for people to move somewhere with more outside space. 

“The end of the stamp duty deadline is a concern, and needs looking at by the government, although it is focusing  buyers’ minds on getting deals done in the short term. 

“The problem borrowers face is lenders’ service levels, with some struggling with the rise in demand. Price and criteria are key when choosing a mortgage, but borrowers must also consider how long a lender is going to take.”

Original Article from Estate Agent Today 02/11/20

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New lockdown rules on buying, selling, moving home, and tradespeople

Lockdown

With the number of Covid-19 cases increasing at an alarming rate across the whole of the UK, the government has acted to try and control the spread of the virus by introducing another lockdown.

In order fight coronavirus, protect the NHS and save lives, the government is urging people to do more to reduce the spread of the infection by reducing day-to-day contact with other people, and that means staying home, except for specific purposes.

From Thursday 5 November until Wednesday 2 December, the government is also asking people to not gather with others they do not live with, except for specific purposes, as well as close certain businesses and venues, but does that include estate agency branches?

All non-essential retail has been ordered to close for a month, including auction houses, but does not appear at this stage to include estate agents, and so they will not have to close under the existing guidance – at least not in England.

While the housing market in England will remain open, the Welsh government has put all viewings on hold.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick took to social media to confirm that renters and homeowners in England will be able to move and removal firms, tradespeople, and estate agents can still operate by going inside homes.

Writing on Twitter, Jenrick said: “Housing market update ahead of Thursday’s measures: Renters & homeowners will be able to move; Removal firms and estate agents can operate; Construction sites can and should continue; Tradespeople will be able to enter homes.

“But all must follow the Covid safety guidance.”

Jenrick added that “all parties involved should continue to play their part in reducing the spread of the virus by following the current guidance”.

That includes following social distancing rules, wearing PPE including masks and gloves, having sellers leave the property during a viewing, which can only last for 15 minutes, and to have as few people looking at the property as possible.

He continued: “Tradespeople like electricians, plumbers, repairers of domestic appliances can enter your home. They will need to follow social distancing guidance that has already been published.”

However, during the current Welsh two-week ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown, the residential property market has effectively been closed again. Estate agent offices have been forced to shut and in-person property viewings are banned until Monday 9 November.

Original Article from Property Industry Eye 02/11/20

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Essex Homes And Lettings and our responsibilities to you during COVID-19

At Essex Homes And Lettings we take the health and safety of our staff and clients extremely seriously. We are staying up to date with, and taking advice from the Government, Public Health England and the Chief Medical Officer as the COVID-19 situation progresses.

Given the current level of concern, we want to reassure all our clients that we have taken and will continue to take the appropriate and necessary steps to ensure our levels of service and quality are maintained, without risk to staff and clients and without loss of service whilst adhering to recommendations.

We will continue to monitor the situation on a daily basis and we will provide updates accordingly.

We have already taken the following steps and are confident that we can and will operate with minimal disruption through the next phases of the coronavirus outbreak whilst meeting the needs and requirements of our clients and the wider public.

Office

As per current guidance, we have asked that most of our team members work from home. We have a limited number of staff working from our office, but we request that you do not attend our office unless it is absolutely essential. Please also do not attend without prior arrangement. 

We will be avoiding handshakes and asking anyone who visits our office to wash or sanitise their hands.

Staff still situated in our offices understand their responsibility to report immediately any change in their health, family health or circumstances.

We have provided hand gel on all staff desks and do not allow staff to share phones or equipment.

All door handles, phones, keyboards and other office equipment is cleaned regularly.

Clients

Where possible we are offering the following:

  • 360-degree viewings
  • Video call viewings
  • Recorded video viewings

All of our communication channels – telephone, email, text messages, messenger and social media are all operating as normal and all staff members are contactable. 

Buyer and Seller Information

We have introduced new procedures and guidelines in the event of viewing requests. These will be reviewed as the situation evolves but our foremost concern is to keep staff and clients safe. Please talk to our staff on 01245398466 or email sales@essexhomesandlettings.co.uk with regard to this.

We are here to help and support all of our clients and we hope you, your friends and family remain safe and healthy for the duration of COVID-19.

Thank you for your patience, support and understanding during this challenging time.

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What will the Property Market Look Like in Chelmsford After Lockdown Ends?

Property Market

If you’re a homeowner or a homebuyer in Chelmsford wondering what to expect in the property world when the lockdown is fully lifted, you’re not alone. As this pandemic is so unprecedented, even we in the property industry aren’t entirely clear on what the full reopening of the housing market will look like as it’s impossible to predict. 

As estate agents, all we can do is use our expertise and knowledge to try and understand what this crisis could mean for housing prices and property demands. 

Let’s take a closer look at what the property market may look like post-lockdown, and what it could mean for those of you interested in buying or selling: 

All suspended sales can now be completed 

Reopening the property market as a priority means that most of the sales that were suspended due to lockdown can now proceed. If you committed to buying or selling your property before the lockdown and have been waiting patiently for weeks, your agent will now reach out to you to proceed with the completion of the sale. 

Property demand is likely to rise 

Based on early indicators, activity levels in the housing market are likely to continue to rise, due to demand that has built up during the lockdown period. In fact, demand rose by 35% just one day after the government announced that the market was reopening.

Consumer confidence may be low 

Although demand for housing is on the rise, it’s important to be aware that consumer confidence may understandably be low at this economically uncertain time. Some people may be keen to stay put and will not interested in making big financial investments until things stabilise. 

On the other hand, another potential consequence of the uncertain economic state could be a boost in demand, which here at Essex Homes And Lettings we have already started to see. As people face financial insecurity, they may start to reconsider their housing needs and consider downsizing. Or they may no longer have to commute to work as frequently, with many companies choosing to extend their work-from-home policies well past the lockdown. This could lead to a rise in property demand beyond the most popular commuter zones outside the city.  

Economic instability is likely to lead to house prices falling 

As we’re set to move into a phase of recession, many forecasters are predicting that house prices may fall by around 10% across the country this year. These forecasts are based on how house prices have fluctuated based on economic conditions in the past.  

However, it’s important to note that UK house prices weren’t rising particularly fast pre-COVID. It may also be possible that the government will provide more economic support that is geared towards the housing market. 

Following safety measures is key 

Although the government has officially reopened the housing market and you’re allowed to make house moves, things won’t be exactly the same as they were pre-lockdown. 

As estate agents, we can open our office premises and perform viewings, but both must be done at a safe social distance. Our virtual tours of properties will become increasingly common, and those who would prefer real-life viewings may need to sign health declarations before doing so. 

Although navigating the post-lockdown property market may feel a little more complicated at first, we can guide you through the necessary steps in line with government guidance.

Sellers will need to take extra care to prepare homes for viewings 

Although we advise buyers to don gloves and masks for any in person viewings, not to touch any surfaces and remain at a safe social distance from others, sellers can prepare their home for post lock-down viewings with a good deep clean. Clean all surfaces and door handles with a good antibacterial cleaning product between each viewing. 

It will take time for the property market to rebuild momentum 

So, what happens next? Although the housing market is now open, realistically, it is going to take time for it to fully kick into action. Many workplaces are still closed, with millions still on furlough. We, like many other estate agents are getting to grips with new government guidance and ensuring that our businesses are adhering to safe work practices. However, there’s no reason why your transaction can’t go off without a hitch. 

Want to learn more about how the UK property market will affect your transaction after lockdown? 

Feel free to reach out to us at Essex Homes And Lettings on 01245 398466 or sales@essexhomesandlettings.co.uk and one of our agents will be happy to discuss how the post-lockdown property market will impact your transaction in Chelmsford.