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  • Mark Corley

Viewing Property Safely

Now that England is back into a new national lockdown, the government has clarified that the property market can remain open, and had issued guidelines for home-movers, agents, and other property related businesses. They have tried to keep the guidelines simple, but robust, and here is a brief outline of the important points you need to consider when viewing property, or having people view your own home.

Can I take a physical viewing? If you are a potential buyer or tenant looking to arrange viewings, most agents should be happy to book for you to view a property but may insist you are in a position to proceed with an offer immediately. They may also want to ensure that you have viewed the property’s online Video Tour before taking an actual physical viewing.

Everyday safety measures

In everyday life, we should be expected to:

· Maintain a minimum 2m social distance from people not in your household, wherever possible

· Wash your hands regularly – this remains one of the most effective ways to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

· Clean surfaces regularly – with property this should include all fixtures regularly touched, such as door handles, bannisters, etc.

Can I take an online viewing? You will always need to view a property in person before being able to proceed with an offer (this forms part of The Property Ombudsman (TPO) guidelines), but before getting to this stage it is a good idea to take an online viewing where one is available. As mentioned, some agents may insist on this, and all good agents should have Video Tours available for most of their properties. These video tours can be particularly helpful in clarifying if the property is right for you. The hope is that if an online viewing shows the property is clearly unsuitable for you, you will have avoided a physical viewing and the additional contact that would entail. It also helps to reassure the agent you are serious about the property and they will be keen to book you an actual viewing.

Before the viewing Estate agents should ask you to confirm certain points regarding COVID-19 prior to you taking a physical viewing. In line with government guidance, anyone experiencing coronavirus symptoms should be staying at home to help prevent further spread of the disease. To give confidence to all parties present at a viewing, and to help agents manage the viewing effectively, you will be asked questions such as:

· Has anyone in your household had COVID-19 within the last 4 weeks?

· Has anyone in your household displayed COVID-19 symptoms or been asked to self-isolate in the last 4 weeks?

The current owners, or tenants, of the property (and the agent, if it is an accompanied viewing) will also have been through these questions, and never be afraid to ask for confirmation of this prior to your viewing. It is also a good idea to ask as any questions that have come to mind about the house BEFORE the viewing so as to save time on the actual viewing itself.

At the viewing Firstly, and very importantly, show up on time. As an agent, if we are having to manage multiple viewers arriving consecutively, the situation can only be handled safely if people arrive at the allotted time. Arriving too early, or too late, may mean you cannot view the house because two viewing parties cannot be in the house together. Arriving at the appointed time will also help to minimise the number of people gathering near the property and keep everyone safer. If you arrive late it may result in you not being able to view the property that day, and a new appointment would need to be scheduled.

If the owners are showing you around, you will need to be mindful that this is someone’s home, and you must follow the social distancing guidelines. Guidelines say that viewings should take no longer than 15 minutes, so come prepared to look around the property in a purposeful manner and, wherever possible, save any questions that arise when you are in the property until after the viewing has concluded. Convening, post viewing, in the front garden (English weather permitting) to go through important questions is far safer than spending extra time inside the property. Alternatively, note down any questions that come to mind during the viewing and email these to the agent afterwards reducing the need for further contact.

What ‘Kit’ will a buyer need for their viewings?

· Anti-bacterial hand sanitiser will ensure you can clean your hands both before and after the viewing

· A face mask – as an agent, we will not be able to permit people to view without one. If you have a medical exemption, we are happy for you to view a property without a facemask, however you must bring your exemption document to the viewing as we cannot allow you to view without one or the other.

· Disposable gloves – not an essential, but some people prefer to wear them. You will need to ensure you are putting on a fresh pair of gloves as you enter the property. Please bear in mind, arriving wearing gloves is not advised. This means we do not know what surfaces the gloves have touched previously and we would need to ask you to remove those gloves and replace them with a fresh pair prior to be allowed access to the property.

· Your phone – not only so you can contact us if you need to when travelling to the appointment, but also so you can take notes or write questions down during your visit.

And always remember…

· Maintain a minimum 2m distance from people not in your household, wherever possible

· Wash your hands regularly

· Clean surfaces regularly

After the viewing As we mentioned earlier, once the viewing has finished it may be helpful for us to spend a couple of minutes with you, outside the property, going through any feedback or questions you have. We are also happy to take additional questions by email, text, or even a video call, if you would prefer.

And For Owners Doing Their Own Viewings…. Once the viewers have left, please remember to wipe down any door handles, banisters, etc that may have been touched during the viewing. Hand sanitiser would have been used by viewers before their visit, but it never hurts to be extra careful.

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