In this webinar, Propertymark CEO Mark Hayward gave an update on the likely procedures and protocols that will be in place for those working in the property industry once lockdown restrictions are eased. From his regular consultations with Government, Mark updated on safe viewings, moving from exchange to completion, the situation with mortgage companies and much more. He then answered dozens of your questions in a live Q&A.
Watch the recording back now in the video module above.
Here’s a summary of some of Mark’s key answers. Please watch the full video to see Mark’s answers to all the specific questions asked.
What conversations are being had with Government?
Currently, the government’s guidance remains the same.
No non-essential moves should be taking place. Although agents were under commercial pressures to do viewings, they should not be visiting their offices or entering any vendors’ or landlords’ properties.
We’re talking almost on a daily basis. Everyone wants to get back up and running, and we’ve been working with MHCLG and BEIS and also conveyancers and removals firms to achieve this once the lockdown has eased.
We’re expecting an update on Sunday from Government, although various documents have already been leaked – looking at overarching guidance for various sectors.
Other agents appear to be ignoring Government advice. What can be done about that?
To reiterate, the official guidance hasn’t changed at all. You should be working from home, not from the office. You shouldn’t be doing viewings or entering properties and we all have to play our part in protecting the NHS.
If you are aware of anyone flouting the guidelines, the authorities are keen to hear about it because these people are putting themselves and consumers at huge risk.
Anyone business going against the current guidance should be reported to National Trading Standards.
What might the return to work look like for agents?
I don’t believe the doors are going to be flung open and everybody will be at will to continue to do what they’ve always done.
There are various practices that will have to be adopted and they’ll be various common sense.
What timescales are we looking at for a phased return to work?
We don’t know for sure. The expectation is that the Prime Minister will announce on Sunday a phased return to offices, starting from three weeks on Monday (25th May), which will correspond with possibly some release of schools back into operation.
The Government is very keen to give businesses notice to allow them to prepare.
What restrictions might be enforced in the office?
Some of the things being discussed are:
No hot desking
A separate door to come in and out
Thorough, regular cleaning
Protective equipment to be provided to staff
Staff in client facing and non-client facing roles sat physically separate
What might viewings look like on the return to work?
Some of the things being discussed are:
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 – the days of ‘open houses’ are likely to be over, at least in the short term
What might home moves look like?
Some of the things being discussed are:
Home owners to pack all their own things – minimising the time removal companies spend in a property
Consideration of a period of time where a property is left empty between move out and move in
Making sure the property is disinfected
Social distancing being adhered to by all sides
What protective equipment might be required?
PPE is likely to be required for your staff. It will also be required for you when you go and visit properties.
I’m hesitant to say that agent should go out and buy vast quantities of PPE because we know that they’re in short supply and we know that they should be given to the health service as priority.
You’ll have to do a risk assessment on your own offices and probably on properties that you are showing. We haven’t got much detail on that yet but there will be guidance issued.
Will we follow the lead of other countries and force agents and vendors to wait inside whilst buyers look around on their own, creating a potential security risk?
We’ve looked at that and I’ve had various conversations with the realtor association in the US and also some in Europe. I would agree it is a security issue.
Viewings will likely look like this:
The seller will be required to vacate the property, i.e stand at the bottom of the garden or somewhere completely out of the way.
The property will have to be prepared for viewing – by opening all doors, perhaps bathrooms and toilets are off limits
Gloves must always be worn
Nobody to touch any surfaces
…but I still think agents will be needed inside the property in a supervisory role, to prevent things going missing.
How many viewings a day will we be able to do?
I think there will have to be a very strict diary and time schedule. They will have to be spaced apart to ensure that one viewer has left the property before another one arrives. That’s why they’ll probably be a time limit on it.
The may have to be further measures because you will have to ascertain from the viewer that they have the correct PPE to go in.
It’s likely you’ll need to leave a short period of time, say 15 minutes, before the next person arrives.
This is one of the new ways of working agents will need to find a way to practically manage and adjust their business accordingly.
Can you go into empty properties? There’s a lot of confusion around this
We’re asking for a definition of empty. Does it mean a property that is unoccupied or a property that is completely empty of any items of furniture?
We’re pushing hard to get some more guidance on this. We know lots of new builds for instance could be seen as low risk as long as they leave 72 hours in between for the virus to die. But then if they’re a flat, they have lots of common areas, doors etc which could also be infected.
What’s the guidance going to be for people in existing chains who are waiting to exchange?
As always we’d recommend everyone stays in close contact. There are going to be an awful lot of people all wanting to move in a very short period of time.
The more you can try and keep all elements in contact talking to one another will help. Whilst we don’t have a finite date, make sure that you’ve got that that flexibility in place for all elements of the transaction (the seller, buyer, layers, removal companies etc) for a day to be agreed. I don’t think we’re going to be talking about the only two completions that will take place will be a Friday. There will have to be some flexibility all round.
What’s the latest on being able to claim commission in furlough pay?
We lobbied hard for commission payments to be included in furlough, as well as the business rates exemption. The short answer is that yes, you can include it, as an average of the last year. There may be some checks on that but yes, you can include it.
Rightmove ran a Q&A webinar with JMW Solicitors all about the furlough scheme on 1st May. Watch the recording here.
These were just some of the questions Mark answered in the live session. Watch the video in the module at the top of the page above for his full update.
Next week we’re joined by Mark’s colleague David Cox for a further update.
Mark Hayward is the Chief Executive of NAEA Propertymark and, having run a UK wide operation for one of the main high street banks, has extensive experience in sales, lettings, auctions and property management. Mark has worked closely with HM Government, in particular with Treasury, BEIS, the Home Office, Cabinet Office, Ministry of Justice, and with MHCLG helping shape legislation. In addition, aiding HMRC and NCA in identifying areas of risk around AML with emphasis on UWO and, in future, providing a Register of Overseas Beneficial Ownership.
Government’s intention to regulate the industry resulted in the formation of ROPA (Regulation of Property Agents) group on which Mark sat.
He is on the Board of The Property Ombudsman, TDS (Tenancy Deposit Scheme), and the government’s Economic Crime Strategic Board.
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