Estate agents have expressed concerns that lockdown house viewers are travelling out of their own area, sometimes driving hundreds of miles to view property, often to buy as a second home.
The property market is still open through the lockdown and viewing are allowed in England although the government recommends that house viewings take place online, particularly in the first instance.
However, second home buyers simply don’t want a virtual appointment and estate agents are feeling under more pressure as home buyers bid to complete their house purchase prior to the end of the temporary stamp duty measures.
One estate agent in Cornwall recently turned down an interested second home buyer who wanted to view a property in Hayle because they lived in Bradford, some 400 miles away. Paul Le Bas said he took the view that buying a second property amidst the pandemic could not be deemed ‘essential travel’, at least until the current lockdown was lifted.
Another estate agent, in Yorkshire, said that lockdown house viewers were not interested in viewing property online and that virtual slots were going unused. She complained that people did not always observe social distancing rules and were even taking children on house viewings with them. Such behaviour meant that estate agents did not feel safe conducting viewings and property valuations, but felt pressurised to do so as they did not want to miss the opportunity to earn money and commission from house sales.
The National Agency of Estate Agents (NAEA) Propertymark said they recommend that only people able to proceed with a purchase should seek to view property, such as cash buyers or people who had already sold their home.
Government advice is that initial property viewings should be done online “if possible” but that appointments should be by appointment and ‘open house’ viewings, where potential buyers drop in to look at a property should not take place at all. There is no current official guidance as to how far a home buyer can travel when looking for a new property.