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Buying & Selling during the pandemic.

Posted on Monday, November 30, 2020


26th November 2020 - With the national lockdown in England lifting on 2 December, we explain what impact the government's strengthened tiered system could have if you’re trying to buy or sell a home.

Speaking to Parliament via video link on Monday, Johnson said: “We are going to go back to a regional tiered approach, applying the toughest measures where Covid is most prevalent.

“And while the previous local tiers did cut the R number, they were not quite enough to reduce it below 1, so the scientific advice, I am afraid, is that our tiers need to be made tougher.”

What the different tiers mean:

Tier 1 - medium alert

Tier 2 - high alert

Tier 3 - very high alert

The good news is that under the government’s new advice, the housing market remains open for business, whether you’re buying, selling, renting or letting.

Across the board, estate agents remain open and physical property viewings are allowed, with comprehensive advice on how to follow social distancing guidelines inside homes.

And others in the housing market, such as conveyancers, tradespeople, and professional movers, can continue to operate too.

It’s worth remembering that Zoopla, like other property portals, is open 24/7. That means you can do a lot of your property search online, from exploring our news, guides and insights, and checking out the prices of recently sold properties, to registering to get instant alerts for exactly your type of property - and save as many searches as you want.

Richard Donnell, our head of research and insight, said: “We’ve already seen how the first lockdown led to people carrying out a once-in-a-lifetime re-evaluation of their homes and lifestyles, with a focus on prioritising space. And the latest restrictions will continue to support this trend – particularly for those who are more financially secure.” 

Meanwhile, the stamp duty holiday is continuing to act as an incentive for buyers to complete a purchase before the tax break ends on 31 March 2021.

However, with different regions in different tiers, it’s a good idea to find out how your local housing market is operating in a Covid-19-secure way.

Tier 1 - medium alert

In tier one areas, all businesses and venues can continue to operate in a Covid-secure way, other than those that are currently closed by law, such as nightclubs. 

Schools, universities and places of worship can remain open, and indoor sport and exercise classes can continue to take place. People must not meet in groups of more than six either indoors or outdoors, other than where a legal exemption applies, such as for a wedding or funeral

Find full details and the latest government guidance here.

What does tier 1 mean for the property market? 

Tier one essentially means business as usual for the property market, but with as many safety restrictions in place as possible.

Can I view properties in a tier 1 area?

Yes. 

Property viewings can continue to happen with Covid-secure measures in place. 

Such measures include the wearing of face coverings, regular hand washing, keeping doors and windows open for good ventilation during the viewing, and only two prospective buyers from the same household entering the property at a time. 

Sellers and estate agents may choose to wait outside the property or decide not to be present while viewings are undertaken.

Open house viewings are not allowed at this time.

If any member of either the household whose home is being viewed, or of the household viewing the property, shows symptoms of Covid-19 or is self-isolating, then an in-person viewing should be delayed. 

The government is encouraging the use of virtual viewings before visiting properties in person in order to minimise public health risks.

Are estate agents in tier 1 open?

Yes.

However, the toughened tier system means more people are being encouraged to work from home where possible under tier one.

This might mean some agents may choose to work from home, continuing to work digitally and remaining open at branch-level by appointment only.

Can I move house under tier 1? 

Yes.

Estate and lettings agents, removers, valuers and people in sales and lettings offices and show homes can continue to work under the tiered system as they did during the most recent national lockdown.

Meeting with people outside your household or bubble “to facilitate moving home” is listed as one of the government’s exemptions from gatherings limits across all tiers.

Advice from the government encourages everyone involved in a home move to be as flexible as possible and to be prepared to delay moves if, for example, one of those involved becomes ill with Covid-19 or has to self-isolate.

Which English regions are in tier 1?

South east

  • Isle of Wight

South west

  • Cornwall
  • Isles of Scilly

Tier 2 - high alert

Tier two is for areas with a higher or rapidly rising level of Covid-19 infections. 

Anyone living in a tier two area must follow all of the tier one rules, and also not meet with anybody outside of their household or support bubble in any indoor setting, including their home or a public building.

Meetings of up to six people from outside the same household or bubble can take place outside in public spaces and gardens.  

Find full details and the latest government guidance here.

What does tier 2 mean for the property market? 

Under tier two, the majority of businesses can continue to operate as usual and this includes estate agents and other services related to moving house, such as conveyancers and removers.

Can I view properties in a tier 2 area?

Yes.

In-person property viewings can still take place, with appropriate precautions. 

The same advice applies to tier two property viewings as it does in tier one. 

This means property viewings can continue to take place with Covid-secure measures in place.  

Such measures include the wearing of face coverings, regular hand washing, keeping doors and windows open for good ventilation during the viewing, and only two prospective buyers from the same household entering the property at a time. Sellers and the estate agent may choose to wait outside the property or decide not to be present while viewings are undertaken.

Open house viewings are not allowed at this time.

The government is encouraging the use of virtual viewings before visiting properties in person to minimise public health risks, and socially distant viewings.

If any member of either the household whose home is being viewed, or of the household viewing, shows symptoms of Covid-19 or is self-isolating, then in-person viewing should be delayed.

For the latest government advice in full check here

Are estate agents in tier 2 open?

Yes.

However, as with tier one, the toughened tier system means more people are being encouraged to work from home where possible.

This might mean some agents choose to work from home, continuing to work digitally and opening their branch by appointment only.

Can I move house under tier 2? 

Yes. 

The government has been clear that the property market is staying open even as restrictions are toughened, and during the second national lockdown moving services continued with Covid-secure measures in place.

This means estate and lettings agents, removals, valuers and people in sales and lettings offices and show homes can to continue working under the tiered system.

Meeting with people outside your household or bubble “to facilitate moving home” is listed as one of the government’s exemptions from gatherings limits across all tiers.

Advice from the government encourages everyone involved in a home move to be as flexible as possible and to be prepared to delay moves, for example if one of those involved becomes ill with Covid-19 or has to self-isolate. 

Which English regions are in tier 2?

North west

  • Cumbria
  • Liverpool City Region
  • Warrington and Cheshire

Yorkshire

  • York
  • North Yorkshire

West Midlands

  • Worcestershire
  • Herefordshire
  • Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin

East Midlands

  • Rutland
  • Northamptonshire

East of England

  • Suffolk
  • Hertfordshire
  • Cambridgeshire, including Peterborough
  • Norfolk
  • Essex, Thurrock and Southend on Sea
  • Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes

London

  • all 32 boroughs plus the City of London

South east

  • East Sussex
  • West Sussex
  • Brighton and Hove
  • Surrey
  • Reading
  • Wokingham
  • Bracknell Forest
  • Windsor and Maidenhead
  • West Berkshire
  • Hampshire (except the Isle of Wight), Portsmouth and Southampton
  • Buckinghamshire
  • Oxfordshire

South west

  • South Somerset, Somerset West and Taunton, Mendip and Sedgemoor
  • Bath and North East Somerset
  • Dorset
  • Bournemouth
  • Christchurch
  • Poole
  • Gloucestershire
  • Wiltshire and Swindon
  • Devon

Tier 3 - very high alert

Tier three is reserved for areas in England where transmission rates of Covid-19 are causing the greatest concern.

People living in these areas are not allowed to meet anybody outside of their household or support bubble in an indoor or outdoor setting, apart from open public spaces such as parks and beaches, where the rule of six will still apply.

The public are also advised not to travel in and out of these areas, other than for work, education, accessing youth services or caring responsibilities.  

What does tier 3 mean for the property market? 

The government has been clear that the property market is staying open even as restrictions are toughened, and during the latest national lockdown moving services continued but with Covid-secure measures in place. 

However, the government has called for flexibility among movers and sellers under the tightest coronavirus measures, should plans have to change due to any of the households involved contracting or being exposed to Covid-19.

Can I view properties in a tier 3 area?

Yes.

In-person viewings are still allowed under the highest Covid-19 tier.

However, some estate agents, sellers and buyers may decide to postpone viewings  while restrictions are in place.

That said, renewed lockdown measures may also heighten people’s desire to move if they are unhappy with their current accommodation.

Virtual viewings can continue to take place and are likely to be offered by estate agents in the first instance so that any in-person viewings are given to the most interested prospective buyers.

As in the lower tiers, Covid-secure measures should be firmly in place during in-person viewings.  

Such measures include the wearing of face coverings, regular hand washing, keeping doors and windows open for good ventilation during the viewing, and only two prospective buyers from the same household entering the property at a time. Sellers and the estate agent may choose to wait outside the property or decide not to be present while viewings are undertaken.

Open house viewings are not allowed under tier three or any of the lower tiers.

You can find out more about what to expect from socially distant viewings in this article.

If any member of either the household whose home is being viewed, or the household viewing, shows symptoms of Covid-19 or is self-isolating, then an in-person viewing should be delayed.

Are estate agents in tier 3 open? 

Yes.

However, as with tiers one and two, the toughened tier system means people are being encouraged to work from home when possible.

This might mean some agents choose to work from home, continuing to work digitally and remaining open at branch-level by appointment only.

Can I move house under tier 3?

Yes. 

Estate and lettings agents, removals, valuers and people in sales and lettings offices and show homes can to continue working under the tiered system.

Meeting with people outside your household or bubble “to facilitate moving home” is listed as one of the government’s exemptions from gatherings limits across all tiers.

Which English regions are in tier 3?

North east

  • Hartlepool
  • Middlesbrough
  • Stockton-on-Tees
  • Redcar and Cleveland
  • Darlington
  • Sunderland
  • South Tyneside
  • Gateshead
  • Newcastle upon Tyne
  • North Tyneside
  • County Durham
  • Northumberland

North west

  • Greater Manchester
  • Lancashire
  • Blackpool
  • Blackburn with Darwen

Yorkshire and The Humber

  • The Humber
  • West Yorkshire
  • South Yorkshire

West Midlands

  • Birmingham and Black Country
  • Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent
  • Warwickshire, Coventry and Solihull

East Midlands

  • Derby and Derbyshire
  • Nottingham and Nottinghamshire
  • Leicester and Leicestershire
  • Lincolnshire

South east

  • Slough (remainder of Berkshire is tier 2: High alert)
  • Kent and Medway

South west

  • Bristol
  • South Gloucestershire
  • North Somerset.

What about Scotland?

Scotland’s government has imposed a five-level system of coronavirus measures. 

Currently, there are 11 areas in west and central Scotland now in the highest level of Covid-19 restrictions, which go from zero (lowest) to four (very high risk).

Can I view properties in-person in Scotland?

Yes. 

The Scottish government’s guidance on property viewings emphasises a virtual-first approach. 

This means in-person property viewings are permitted, but it is recommended that you view properties virtually in the first instance if possible and only proceed to a physical viewing if you are interested in offering on the property.

Can I move house in Scotland?

Yes.

In Scotland, people can continue to move under all five levels, and to and from areas in different levels. 

However, the government suggests people may wish to consider whether they can postpone a move and related activities in areas subject to level four.

You can read the latest guidance from the Scottish government on moving home here.

What about Wales?

Wales recently emerged from a four-week “firebreak lockdown” and no tier-based Covid-19 restrictions are currently in place.

This means the property market can continue to operate within coronavirus safety measures.

People living in Wales may: 

  • move home

  • market a residential property for sale or rent and prepare a residential property for persons to move into

  • visit estate or letting agents, developer sales offices or show homes for the purposes of the purchase, sale, letting or rental of residential property

  • view a residential property.

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