Update June 5th 2020: The new Government guidance to 'Stay Alert' means that in-person house viewings can resume in England. Social distancing measures and precautions must be followed closely.
The prospect of having strangers coming to your home during this time might be stressful. But, handled carefully and sensibly, it is possible to continue with your home sale.
There have been reports in the media of estate agents seeing fewer potential buyers requesting to view homes. Anecdotally this appears to be true. But many estate agents also report that those who are requesting viewings are more motivated to buy, and more likely to put in an offer. This suggests that the outbreak of coronavirus has encouraged fewer people to ‘window shop’ houses they are unlikely to buy.
You should therefore expect fewer viewings. Do not worry. These buyers are likely to be incredibly interested in actually buying your home.
You’re probably keeping your home extra clean and tidy for viewings already. But it's important to take extra precautions whilst coronavirus is at large. Make sure that you’ve thoroughly sanitized surfaces and commonly touched areas before and after viewings. Commonly touched areas will include things like door handles and buttons on appliances. This will help reduce the potential for contamination.
Professor of Public Health at Harvard, Joseph Allen, also recommends ensuring good air-flow. This will help to prevent the airborne spread of coronavirus. Keeping your windows open, where possible, will ensure your rooms are well-ventilated.
On top of this, make sure you’re following the latest government advice. For example washing your hands more regularly with antibacterial soap for at least 20 seconds.
Your estate agent should also make sure that any potential buyer is wearing gloves and a face mask upon entering your home, to reduce the risk of transmission. They may also ask that you open all of the internal doors of your home so that house viewers do not have to touch the handles. This may seem like a lot of hassle, but it will protect you, your estate agent, and any potential buyer.
If your estate agent is not taking any extra precautions, you are within your rights to formally complain.
Many estate agents have adopted the latest technological advancements to help people sell their homes more effectively. These include alternative ways of viewing properties. If possible make sure that any buyer visiting your property has already conducted a virtual or video tour. This will ensure that only the most interested buyers come to your property, limiting your contact with other households, and reducing the risk of transmission.
Virtual tours are the most technologically advanced way to view a property without actually visiting it. A specialized photographer will take photos of your home and develop a 360 degree simulation of the space. A viewer will then be able to ‘walk through’ these images online, and the rooms will appear as if they were actually standing in them. This allows anyone with an internet connection to be able to have a detailed look around your home.
Video tours are another method, accessible to all agents. Instead of 3D images, video tours are a narrated video walk-through of your home. This option is a little less detailed than a virtual tour, but is still an effective way for buyers to see your home if they're unable to visit in person.
If you’re working with a good high street estate agent, it will be part of their policy to thoroughly vet buyers before they come to your home. They will be up to date with the latest recommendations, and will be able to provide tailored advice whilst coronavirus remains an issue. Moreover, they will handle the viewings for you. So, if you're worried, you don’t need to meet or come into close contact with potential buyers.
If you’re working with an online agent, like Purplebricks, you will have to handle vetting and viewings yourself. Try to avoid conducting unnecessary viewings, or viewings with high-risk or vulnerable individuals. These could be elderly buyers, or people who’ve recently been abroad. If you’re keen to continue viewings it's worth considering working with an agent that's able to support you during the viewings process. You could also work with a professional viewings provider.
If you’re unsure which agent is right for you, our data-backed comparison tool provides objective information about the estate agents in your area.
If you wish to continue the viewings on your own, doing initial meetings over video or Skype will help you 'vet' the buyer, and ensure both your safety.
The most important thing is to be safe and sensible. If you are unwell or have any of the symptoms of coronavirus do not host any viewings. Make sure you follow the government's guidance regarding self-isolation. Although your home sale is important and stressful, your health should always be your priority.
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