“The government is working on how and when to get our sector back up and running,” he said. “We’ve been working with MHCLG and BEIS and also conveyancers and removals firms to achieve this once the lockdown has eased.”
Hayward also said Propertymark was pushing for further financial assistance for the estate agency sector, but also said that it wouldn’t survive a perpetual lockdown and that agents need to begin restart appraisals and property viewings. He also re-iterated that official guidance had not changed and that although agents were under commercial pressures to do viewings, they should not be visiting their offices or entering any vendors’ or landlords’ properties.
Hayward also urged agents to turn whistleblower if they found local competitors breaking the current and future lockdown rules, saying they were not only breaking guidance but putting themselves and consumers at huge risk.
The industry will also re-open in a phased manner rather than the ‘doors being flung open’ and that significant new practices would have to be adopted. This includes that vendors will have to pack their own homes up. There will also not be a mass return to branches with many staff working from home, he says. Hayward also reminded agents that lock down was relatively easy to do compared to the more detailed plans they will have to draw up to operate their businesses after lockdown form a safety and social distancing point of view.
For viewings, it was clarified in addition to the leaked proposals that:
- Viewings will not last more than 15 minutes.
- PPE will have to be worn
- Sellers will need to have PPE and have disinfected the property prior to viewing particularly door handles.
- Only two adults per viewing.
- Viewings will have to be staggered – days of ‘open houses’ are over.
And for branches
- No hot desking
- Screens between work stations.
- Separate in and out doors.
- All surfaces disinfected regularly.
- In-branch and appraisal/viewings staff separated.
- Protective equipment to be supplied to staff.