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How will the buy-to-let market work after lockdown?

2-minute read

Mollie Millman

12 May 2020

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The buy-to-let market will begin operating again when lockdown slowly eases, but how it will emerge from being on hold is unclear.

Buying, selling and renting property is expected to look very different once the coronavirus lockdown begins to lift.

Back in business in three weeks

The National Association of Estate Agents has said that it expects the housing market will reopen for business – in some way at least – in three weeks’ time.

When Britain went into lockdown, the government explicitly advised people already in the process of buying a home to put things on hold if possible.

Additionally, the Coronavirus Act 2020 placed a temporary ban on evictions, meaning tenants wouldn’t have to move if they were unable to pay their rent.

After weeks in lockdown, how does Britain begin to get back to business?

For the property market, online viewings are already starting to take off, while surveyors are planning how to carry out socially-distanced mortgage valuations.

Online viewings

The viewings that appear online are currently a mix of both professional and amateur content.

A ‘video’ tab on property websites such as Rightmove, is now often placed alongside the more familiar ‘map’ and ‘floor plan' tabs, making virtual viewings easily accessible to landlords.

Buying agent Henry Pryor said: “I don’t think it will be businesses that hold back. Estate agents, for example, will be eager to arrange physical viewings again.

“But I expect that buyers and sellers, landlords and tenants will be more circumspect and will take some time to be comfortable in a stranger’s home or with strangers wandering around their property.

“Forget ‘have you got the money?’ Instead, ‘have you seen the video tour we have on our website?’ is what I expect anyone to be asked before they make a viewing appointment.”

Some agents are even doing virtual valuations for those gearing up to sell or rent their property out once lockdown is lifted.

Virtual valuations

However, it’s not instructions and viewings that are seen as the key to getting Britain’s property market moving again. Instead, it’s surveyors’ mortgage valuations.

Some valuations of this type can be done remotely – known as desktop or automated valuations, using local property market data and recent sold prices.

But this isn’t always possible, and mortgage lenders may not look favourably on them where a buyer only has a small deposit to buy a property.

And once the property market begins to move, how can the momentum be maintained?

Better technology

Jonathan Harris of mortgage broker, Harwell Finance Group, suggested this could be achieved by introducing better technology.

In particular, he said there’s a need for more desktop valuations, more remote viewing of properties and a more nimble way of managing the process.

“Buying a property has always been a time-consuming and clunky process,” he said. “This experience may help it become more nimble and streamlined so there could be some long-term benefits.”

New government guidelines

New guidelines on how to safely carry out property viewings are expected to be issued by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government.

These may include:

  • limiting each viewing to a maximum of 15 minutes
  • limiting each viewing to two adults
  • requiring the use of personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • ensuring viewings are staggered

Mark Hayward of NAEA Propertymark said: “There is a desire and appetite to get the property market moving again.

“There is an input to the economy, not only from the property market but the sectors that evolve around it.”

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