How Covid is changing the way people move home forever

In these troubled times, with a third lockdown in place and the worst months of the pandemic currently in play, fuelled by the usual winter pressures on the NHS, many people are asking if they can still move home.

It’s a debate which has gone right to the heart of Parliament, with Labour leader Sir Kier Starmer suggesting in mid-January that property viewings should be stopped.

Agents and property professionals are divided on the issue, with some choosing to close down their branches in the current environment.

The government insists it wants to keep the housing market open, if at all possible, because of the economic benefits of transactions. What’s more, at the moment, demand is at record highs because of the stamp duty holiday deadline nearing, while there are huge numbers of transactions in the pipeline. The reluctance to close the market, as was the case from the end of March last year for a seven-week period, is understandable given the above.

The government says estate agency offices can remain open to the public and agents are advised to talk customers and staff through their company’s Covid-19 procedures. 

Despite this, many sellers and buyers are asking themselves the following questions: should I put my house on the market? Can I move? Should I move?

We’ve heard people say directly: “We’re going through Covid and I don’t want people coming round.”

It’s a highly delicate situation, given the current situation in the country. People are understandably reticent about bringing their house to the market or moving, concerned that they might catch or unwillingly pass on the virus.

At the same time, buyer activity is extremely strong – because of the stamp duty deadline and because of lockdown. Just like the first and second lockdowns last year, people are experiencing the need for more space, better work from home facilities and perhaps the opportunity to move away from big cities to coastal areas which offer wide open spaces and are generally less populated.

Buyers and sellers are more motivated than ever, but at the same time many question if now – in the height of the second wave of Covid-19 – is the right time to move/sell.

Changing our ways

To get around this, and adapt to the new normal, we’ve changed the way we work – not just for now, but forever. Even with the vaccine rollout, restrictions and social distancing are likely to remain in some shape or form for a considerable amount of time.

And the world has changed since Covid, with many more people working from home full-time, people much more comfortable with technology (no matter their age) and people seeking ease and convenience.

Before, we used to just a book a valuation and off we went. Now, we do the majority (nine out of 10) of our valuations on Teams/Zooms courtesy of a walkthrough and chat.

If that person then wants to put their house on the market, we provide them with all the relevant documentation immediately, and then we work with them do a proper valuation of their home.

For this in-person valuation, we make sure we follow the Covid protocols to the letter, with very limited face-to-face contact and windows kept open. The seller doesn’t need to be with our agent during the valuation, and we make sure to take the photos ourselves. We can also prepare marketing details and sort anything else remotely.

It’s exactly the same process with viewings. Before, it would always be a face-to-face meeting with the potential buyer in the first instance. But now we send across the video of the property in question, then arrange a remote meeting to go through the video to ensure the buyer is serious about the property.

We check with them that they are genuinely interested in the property, and make sure to go through all the negatives and positives of the home upfront – for example, if the parking is a nightmare, we make sure the buyer knows that before progressing any further.

We then ask the buyer, if they like the property, what they would be offering to get an understanding of their budget. We know what the seller wants to sell for, so if the proposed bid is well below that, there is no point going to that property for a wasted trip, where the whole rigmarole of a Covid-secure viewing must be carried out to the letter.

We make sure we negotiate on price before they look at a property in person, to ensure the buyer and seller are not worlds apart on their valuation.

Once we’re certain that they’re interested in the property, and are going to be making a bid that is acceptable to the seller, we move on to talk about finances and the mortgage/offer in principle.

One of the biggest frustrations with the homebuying and selling process pre-Covid was time-wasting viewings from people not genuinely interested in a property, but viewing speculatively or because they fancied a peek around. Buyers or sellers could also pull out last-minute or there would be other issues concerning finances or mortgages.

By drilling down into the finer details of everything before a buyer even sets foot inside the property, we can ensure they are properly invested in the home before the viewing commences. This reduces the chances of delays, stalling and frustration at a later point.

A video or a virtual tour can offer, in the first instance, a good overview of a property and buyers will be able to tell if it is the sort of property they could see themselves living in. While you can’t replicate the feel of an in-person viewing, it gives a clear indication of the type, size and layout of the property. Buyers can progress to a physical viewing with a good idea that this is the home for them and they are more likely to make an offer.

This makes things quicker, more efficient and less frustrating for all parties. It’s important to be aware that the market fundamentals are currently very strong, and conditions remain good for buyers and sellers, so now remains an excellent time to buy or sell a home, even if there are a number of obvious challenges in the way right now.

To find out more about buying or selling properties across East Sussex during the current pandemic, please get in touch with us today. You can request a free instant online valuation to see how much your home could be worth.