Estate agents have been one of the few businesses that have been allowed to remain open during the latest lockdown. However, the pressure is mounting on Boris Johnson to review this decision, leaving many wondering will estate agents close and the housing market go into lockdown too?
In March 2020 the housing market was effectively shut down. Estate agents closed and only essential house moves were allowed to go ahead. This has not been the case in the latest lockdown. But scientists and politicians including the Labour leader Keir Starmer are calling for this to change.
Will estate agents close?
In his first speech of 2021 Keir Starmer criticised the government for implementing less strict restrictions than in the previous lockdown.
‘It is still possible at the moment, as I understand it, to go and view houses if you’re going to buy a house, and that wasn’t allowed last March,’ he said. ‘So we’re in this extraordinary situation … at least as serious, if not a more serious position than in March of last year, we’ve got less restrictions in place.’
‘I think we are going to have to look in the next 24 hours or so, what are the other measures that could be put in place, and hear from the scientists as to which of those that they think are more effective. And then all pull together and support those measures if they’re needed because the numbers are still, as everybody knows, heading in the wrong direction on.’
The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has also waded in on the issue of closing the property market. The Mirror reported that in a letter sent to Boris Johnson demanding tighter restrictions, the Mayor pointed to estate agents as an example of businesses allowed to open now that weren’t open in the March lockdown.
While there are currently no plans to close the property market, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said that he has ‘not ruled it out’. Chancellor Rishi Sunak has defended the decision to keep the property market open. However, despite pressure from industry experts, the Chancellor has chosen not to extend the stamp duty holiday.
Under current guidelines estate agents are allowed to stay open, house viewings are allowed under strict guidelines, but virtual viewings are encouraged to minimise contact.
We will just have to wait and see whether these will be brought to a halt in the coming weeks.