Estate agent owner says house viewings can be safe despite "short notice" for reopening

13 May 2020, 15:10 | Updated: 13 May 2020, 15:16

By Fiona Jones

The Zoopla owner expressed surprise at the government's announcement that estate agents are opening, but assured that this could happen safely.

Estate agents can reopen and house viewings are now allowed in England, the government announced yesterday.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said the changes must be carried out under social distancing and safety rules.

Charles Bryant, chief of property company Zoopla, told LBC: "If you'd asked me over the weekend or following the Prime Minister's announcement...I would have said in all likelihood we'd have expected estate agents to open up on 1 June."

Mr Bryant said that despite the "relatively short notice", it is good news for not only agents but home hunters, landlords and vendors - "it sends a pretty strong signal that Britain is open for business."

Shelagh remarked that social distancing is one thing but the amount of people that visit a house each day "surely must be smaller."

Mr Byrant said during the lockdown the industry has looked at the "many different ways" home hunters or tenants can view a house, from remote viewings - where an agent virtually guides a viewer through the house - to 360 degree videos.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said social distancing rules must still apply on house viewings
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said social distancing rules must still apply on house viewings. Picture: PA

"I'm sure those practices won't go away now the lockdown on agencies has been lifted. I think a combination of that together with the guidelines...that have been put in place by the government will protect the agent, the landlord or homeowner, and the prospective buyer or tenant as well," Mr Bryant said.

The housing market has seen a period of "huge uncertainty" starting from the 2016 EU referendum and lasting until Christmas 2019.

With political certainty coming out of the general election and departure from the European Union in December property was a "very very buoyant market" in January and February, he said, and this spike after four years made the decline in the market during lockdown seem even more steep.

However figures have bounced back quickly; for purchasers, that figure is close to 2019 numbers and for renters, these numbers are back up already.

Mr Byrant told Shelagh that around 373,000 transactions across the UK have been put on hold because of the lockdown and this "pent up demand will support the agents."