Could Torbay estate agents be among the first to return to work?

Neil Tozer, director of Ridgewater Property Ltd Photo: Poppy Jakes Photography

Neil Tozer, director of Ridgewater Property Ltd Photo: Poppy Jakes Photography - Credit: Archant

When the lockdown was announced in March, many people were unsure how long it would last, some thinking it would be a few weeks and then everything would be back to normal. I know when I locked up our office I never expected it to be closed for quite so long!

Ridgewater Sales and Lettings Photo: Poppy Jakes Photography

Ridgewater Sales and Lettings Photo: Poppy Jakes Photography - Credit: Archant

Over the last week or so it has become quite clear that restrictions in one form or another could last for many months and what was 'normal' may never quite return especially in the foreseeable future.

Don't worry though, it's far from all doom and gloom! As I write this, the Government is in talks with industry representatives about how estate agents could return to work and get the all important housing sector up and running.

The revenue in stamp duty alone is worth around £12 billion every year to the UK Government and the residential and commercial property market has a value to the UK economy of over £100 billion.

In addition, the UK housing market gives employment to around one million people and gives indirect employment to one million more,

Listening to the updates from the Prime Minister it is also becoming clear that different sectors will be allowed to reopen before others.

Estate and lettings agents are expected to be among the first businesses to reopen in one form or another, in weeks rather than months.

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Property portal Zoopla estimates there are around 373,000 sales agreed subject to contract (SSTC) that are held up and worth a total of £82bn so I am sure that the people waiting to move in particular will really want to get moving.

As an industry, it is relatively easy for us to maintain physical distancing while going about our everyday business.

To help with this HM Land Registry (HMLR) has also announced some important changes to registration requirements, from this week, the 'Mercury' signing approach will be accepted for deeds and HMLR are also making it easier to verify identity for land transactions.

The 'Mercury' approach facilitates virtual signings, conveyancers will be able to email the transfer and other deeds to the client, who then, according to the Law Society website, only needs to print, sign and witness the signature page and take a photo of that or scan it before returning it by email for completion. Authorised professionals will also be able to verify identity by a video call.

So how can we, as agents work within social distancing guidelines and how can houses be viewed safely?

We anticipate that there will be a huge increase in the number of virtual viewings, where you can look around the property from the comfort, and safety, of your own home. Once people have had a look around on a screen and like what they see a 'real' viewing can then take place.

When the real viewing takes place, it would be easy for the vendors to go out, or into the garden for the duration of the visit, the door left open to avoid contact with surfaces and the agent can wait outside until the prospective buyers have had a look around, possibly while wearing masks and gloves. All this can be done within the correct social distancing restrictions.

During lockdown we have seen a rise in the number of people accessing our virtual tours and it may well be that we see a shift in the way houses are viewed in the future. We have also seen an increase in the number of 'virtual' valuations we have been carrying out.

If you would like any advice on selling or renting your home feel free to give us a call on 01803 525100


Following discussions between the sales industry and housing minister Christopher Pincher about property viewings, the Government has issued the following guidelines:

• vendors will have to wait outside while viewings are completed, or in different parts of a house if it's large enough

• potential buyers will not be allowed to touch surfaces including doorknobs and agents will have to have to carry wipes and disinfectant

• those completing viewings including agents will have to wear masks and gloves and must not present any COVID-19 symptoms including a cough

• only two people will be able to attend viewings – children and other members of a family will not be able to come.