How estate agents will offer 'virtual viewings' during coronavirus lockdown

Rightmove claimed the housing market was off to its best start since 2016, but everything fell through after lockdown was announced in March. Rightmove said that, until March 23, the number of house sales being agreed was up 11 percent since the start of the year, compared with the same period in 2019.

When the lockdown came into place, visits to its website dropped by around 40 percent, although there have been some slow indications of improvement.

Although lenders have been giving extensions on mortgage, social distancing restrictions put off many who were about to commit to a move.

But Ben Hudson, managing director of Hudson Moody in York, may have discovered a solution to ensuring people are still able to view new homes.

He said: “Prior to the stay-at-home period we put together videos on many of our properties and invited our clients to produce their own ‘virtual viewings’, which has had a really positive and enthusiastic response.

Housing market adapts to lockdown circumstances

Housing market adapts to lockdown circumstances (Image: Getty)

“We’re also using video viewings for our lettings business to sign up tenants in readiness for when we unlock.

“The vast majority of ongoing sales want to proceed as soon as possible after the lockdown and many potential purchasers want to book appointments as soon as we are once again able to do viewings.

“We’ve also been busy with valuations, with potential vendors sending in photos and videos of their properties and having face-to-face calls with them.

“Whilst we’re under no illusion as to how difficult life may be moving forward, we’re optimistic and we intend to do all we can to ensure people can move when the time comes.”

According to Rightmove, most sellers already on the market , as well as sellers who had agreed to a sale, seem to be going ahead with their plans and will effectuate the move once it is safe to do so.

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According to Rightmove most sellers already on the market seem to be going ahead with their plans

According to Rightmove most sellers already on the market seem to be going ahead with their plans (Image: Getty)

Available stock for sale fell only marginally, by 2.6 percent, and since the lockdown the level of sales falling through is similar to what it would normally expect to see.

Across Britain, the average asking price for the decreasing number of properties entering the market from March 8 to April 11 slumped by 0.2 percent month on month to £311,950.

The price of property coming to market had reached an all-time high of £312,625 in the previous month.

However, the later figure is not meaningful because the market is not working as usual now, according to Rightmove.

With current adversities in finalising property valuations some lenders have momentarily restricted the mortgage offers.

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Live: UK coronavirus map

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Miles Shipside, Rightmove director and housing market analyst, said that, looking further ahead: “We need to avoid a repeat of the post-credit crunch mortgage famine which took from 2008 until the 2013 launch of Help to Buy to bring the mass market back into play with low-deposit mortgages.”

Rightmove said much will depend on future trends in employment rates.

It added that some housing market activity needs to be kept “simmering”, and a plan for when lockdown ends must be put in place.

The plan would help it cope with maintaining social distancing during visits for marketing, viewing, valuing and surveying.

Mr Shipside said: “We think it will take several months or more for the market to find its feet in this new unsteady world.

Rightmove said much will depend on future trends in employment rates

Rightmove said much will depend on future trends in employment rates (Image: Getty)

“Once the lockdown ends, agents will have to follow safe viewing precautions to give sellers the confidence to again allow viewers into their own homes, and buyers the confidence that they can safely visit homes that are for sale.

“During this slow-motion period we do not expect significant price falls, as home sellers will not be prepared to cut their prices while it is still not clear how the general public, businesses, financial markets, and the Government are going to handle the transition to whatever turns out to be the new normal.”

Rightmove’s report also quoted the opinions of estate agents.

Peter Woodthorpe, director of Readings in Leicester, said: “At worst people are holding off to see what happens by the end of the lockdown, but not withdrawing from the transaction.”

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