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Published 7 July 2020
Amidst the excitement of relaxation of lockdown measures, many estate agents have report a huge spike in interest from potential purchasers and renters. Whether that is simply locked up demand bottle necked over the last three months or is signs of a more sustainable pattern remains to be seen.
As the Bank of England’s leading economists talk of a V curve, rather than U, W or L (surely simply saying indicators suggest a swifter recovery than previously predicted would do the trick?) it may be that confidence will return sooner than most thought likely and at least in the property sector transactional activity is set to return to near normal levels in the very near future.
Whilst that would be fantastic news for all professionals engaged in the sector, it would bring with it some real logistical issues for which careful planning must take place and be implemented. Quite clearly, there can be no complacency until the ongoing dangers posed by COVID-19 have passed, indeed these are likely to remain present for the foreseeable future. What, then, are the practical considerations for returning to work in the property market in the current climate?
DAC Beachcroft has already produced a series of articles relevant to operating during the pandemic; these can be accessed via the Collections section of our website but we attach links to a selection of those of particular relevance including:
Changing times: Reopening Workplaces Safely – 7 May 2020
Working around COVID-19: new guidance for employers – 12 May 2020
Working Safely during COVID-19: New Guidelines and HSE Enforcement – 13 May 2020
Working Safely in Wales during Covid-19: New Guidance & HSE Enforcement – 4 June 2020
Achieving a Safe Return to Work during Covid-19 Webinar – 8 June 2020
There is a considerable amount of food for thought within that content, the take home points from those include:
From the perspective of surveyors and valuers, the general principles of social distancing and risk mitigation are easy to understand, but can be more difficult to put into practice when each day will likely include site visits to multiple properties and contact with numerous people, including owners, prospective purchasers, tenants and other professionals.
The RICS has therefore been involved with the recent release of ‘Industry Guidance: Re-opening the Home Moving Market Safely’. It is a collaboration effort between various parties within the residential sector and is endorsed by The Law Society, The Society of Licensed Conveyancers and the NAEA, amongst others. The RICS has also produced two further guides for surveyors; ‘Residential valuations and surveys in England’ and ‘Non-domestic property inspections and visits in England’. There is inevitably overlap between the documents.
In many respects the guidance represents common sense, whilst at the same time aiming to protect and advise the professionals about how to deal with the additional complications of functioning during COVID-19. Extracting the most relevant elements in the context of survey and valuation work:
Property professionals will inevitably be judged to have the same duties and obligations as they did prior to the pandemic, and still be expected to perform their instructions in accordance with the terms of the retainer and in line with RICS standards.
Past experience demonstrates how quickly clients are prepared to turn on their advisers when things go wrong, which danger may only be exacerbated by the limitations imposed by lockdown. However, with careful preparation, conduct of the inspection and subsequent reporting, including clearly defining the restrictions of any assessment, surveyors and valuers should once again be able to carry out their part in helping the property market take its first steps back towards normality, whilst also protecting their own position.
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