Housing market to remain open following latest lockdown restrictions

Jake Carter

January 5, 2021

The housing market will remain open following the latest lockdown restrictions announced on 4 January.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson detailed that a national lockdown will be emplaced across England by law from 6 January.

The enhanced restrictions are accountable to the new variant of COVID-19, which is between 50% and 70% more transmissible.

Johnson said: “There is no doubt that in fighting the old variant of the virus, our collective efforts were working and would have continued to work.

“But we now have a new variant of the virus. It has been both frustrating and alarming to see the speed with which the new variant is spreading.”

“The government have said that people in England will be able to move properties and removal firms, tradespeople, and estate agents can still operate by going inside homes.

This is in contrast to the first national lockdown when the housing market, alongside other industries, was not allowed to operate.

Mark Hayward, chief policy adviser at Propertymark, said: “We welcome the news that the housing market is to remain open throughout this new lockdown period, but it is essential that all agents continue to play their part in reducing the spread of the virus through following all relevant guidance on how to safely conduct viewings.

“It is vital that agents operate in accordance with government and Propertymark guidelines to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, keep movers and buyers safe and keep the housing market moving through these uncertain times.”

The measures are expected until at least the middle of February and include the closing of schools and workplaces.

Countrywide Surveying Services has also detailed that it will continue to operate as ‘normal’ following the government’s announcement.

Via a Linkedin post, Countrywide Surveying Services said that its service provision will continue to be provided under existing stringent COVID-19 secure safety protocols that it has been using for the last few months to ensure we protect both customers and its staff.

Furthermore, the firm outlined that it will continue to review and react to any subsequent government guidance as it is published, and release any updates as and when necessary.

Karen Noye, mortgage expert at Quilter, added: “Many will have had a sense of déjà vu yesterday evening watching yet another Prime Ministerial address to the nation announcing another England-wide lockdown for at least the next seven weeks.

“Once again, vast swathes of the economy are under lockdown orders and will find the next few months extremely challenging, not least the housing market.

“Back in March of last year, the ‘stay at home’ orders were accompanied by a reduction in the rates of stamp duty paid on residential properties until 31 March 2021, and this unlocked the housing market and provided a much needed boost to property sales during an extremely difficult time.

“Recent figures from the Bank of England show that mortgage approvals rose to their highest level in 13 years, with net borrowing hitting £5.7 billion in November 2020.

“It is clear that the housing market has been burning bright thanks to the fuel of the stamp duty cut, but the blaze will likely be extinguished without any further government support.

“Given the amount of time it takes to offer, exchange and complete, in reality the 31 March 2021 deadline for the stamp duty cut has already expired, so the housing market once again finds its self in a precarious position once the incentive to move and benefit from the stamp duty cut ends.

“The freeze in the housing market will be compounded by the dire economic environment expected over the next few months with the OBR – the government’s fiscal watchdog – warning that COVID-induced unemployment will peak at 7.5% in the second quarter of 2021, which will inevitably hit mortgage applications.

“The stamp duty cut is an imperfect solution.

“There are valid concerns that it has inflated property prices and has done little to help, and has even hindered, first time buyers from getting on the property ladder.

“But it should be seen as a sticking plaster to patch up the housing market through the difficult first half of the year before the economic recovery can begin.”

The new national lockdown could see the stamp duty deadline extended according to Andrew Montlake, managing director of Coreco.

Montlake said: “Though the property market remains technically open, there will now be considerably more logistical issues for the simple reason that a lot of people will be working from home.

“Lenders, valuers and conveyancers are already experiencing bottlenecks and delays given the sheer amount of applications going through and the administrative upheaval caused by the latest lockdown will only serve to accentuate them.

“We would not be surprised if the Treasury makes an announcement this week about extending the stamp duty deadline to keep demand alive and give the property industry some much needed wiggle room.”

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