It’s an outbreak that’s helped to bankrupt airlines, shut down borders, and self-isolate entire countries. But, what does the COVID-19 mean for those wanting to sell a property?
Update: 26th March 2020
The article below was written before the Government announced there would be a 3 week lockdown period for the UK.
Since then, the Government has issued official advice for buyers and sellers which you can read here.
Essentially, you are strongly encouraged not to complete a move unless absolutely necessary. You may continue to list your property on the market but should not invite estate agents or potential buyers into you home for viewings or valuations.
The easy answer is simply that ‘no-one knows’. We cannot be sure how bad things will get and how long they will last. But that doesn’t really help if your property is already on the market or you’re thinking of listing it soon.
So, using official advice and a dash of common sense, here is our guide on how to sell a property during the coronavirus pandemic.
Firstly…Do You REALLY Need To Sell?
It’s a question ultimately only you will know the answer to. You may be in the middle of relocating for work, you may be out-growing your existing home, or you may have financial reasons for needing to sell.
There are plenty of legitimate reasons why you NEED to put your property on the market, regardless of what’s happening in the wider world.
However, you may be selling for non-essential reasons. In that case, you need to ask whether now really is the best time to list your property for sale.
Sure, there’s an argument for us continuing life as normally as possible for as long as possible. But, at the same time, coronavirus is also likely to hit sold prices in pretty much every area of the UK. It may make financial sense to hold off selling until the situation becomes a little more stable.
Just keep in mind, we don’t know when things will return to some sort of normality. There is every chance the current instability will last months, perhaps even a year or more.
Follow The Advice You’re Given
If you’ve decided to put your property on the market despite COVID-19 then the next best tip we can give you is to always follow the advice of experts.
Keep monitoring the official Government advice. If you are being advised to self-isolate, make sure you do exactly that. Call your estate agent and let them know.
If anyone living at the property is self-isolating, you won’t be able to allow any viewings to take place on your property until the isolation period is complete.
You’ll also need to talk to your chosen estate agent to find out what procedures they are putting in place to handle the threat of coronavirus.
Are they limiting face to face contact? Will they still conduct hosted viewings? Are they screening potential viewers to check they don’t have any symptoms? Do they have specific advice they are giving to both buyers and sellers?
We have outlined what each of the online estate agents are doing about COVID-19 in this blog post.
Conducting Viewings During The Outbreak
Unless the Government tells us that we should avoid all non-essential contact with other people, it’s perfectly OK to allow viewings on your property. However, that does come with a rather huge caveat…
That said, there are still several precautions you should consider taking to help protect both you and your potential buyers. This is particularly important as it’s thought that COVID-19 is contagious even before people have begun to show symptoms.
Don’t Be Afraid To Raise The Subject
Your estate agent may be screening viewers for symptoms. But, don’t be afraid to ask people if they are suffering any symptoms before they enter your home.
It’s a fast-moving situation and people may have developed symptoms after they booked the appointment. Most people will understand and may even feel comforted that you’re taking the threat seriously.
For now, you should also avoid shaking hands with anyone viewing your home.
Clean Surfaces Before AND After A Viewing
COVID-19 is thought to transit mostly through touching infected surfaces. That means that a good thorough clean of common touchpoints throughout your home is one of the best ways to avoid catching it or transmitting it.
Wipe down door handles, light switches, cupboard doors, and anything else people are likely to touch during a viewing. Do this both before and after a viewing to help prevent transmission of the disease.
You should also ensure you thoroughly wash your hands for at least 20 seconds before and after a viewing. You should also avoid touching your mouth, nose, ears, or eyes as much as possible.
Leave Internal Doors Open & Lights On
Touching infected areas is considered high risk with this virus. But there’s an easy way to help prevent transmission. Simply reduce the number of things people viewing your home need to make contact with.
Leave internal doors open where possible and leave lights switched on. This way, it may be possible for viewers to see your entire property without even taking their hands out of their pockets!
Provide Hand Sanitiser
We know, we know! Hand sanitiser is gold dust at the moment, but if you’re lucky enough to hold a good supply, consider offering some to people as they enter your property.
Under normal circumstances, this may be considered a little rude, but these are not normal circumstances! It is unlikely that in the current situation anyone would be offended by such an offer.
Use The Technology Available!
While it would not normally be recommended to rely solely on technology such as video walkthroughs and virtual viewings, these are not normal times.
As the Government announced a full lockdown on non-essential activities on 24th March, face-to-face contact such as viewings are no longer possible. Therefore, speak to your estate agent about the technology they have available to help you show off your home to potential buyers without ever needing to enter your home!
Advice For Viewings Conducted By Estate Agents
Even if you’re not conducting viewings yourself but are using your estate agent’s hosted viewings service, the advice doesn’t change that much.
Cleaning surfaces, leaving doors open and lights on, and providing hand sanitiser are all things you can do to help minimise risk for everyone.
Sure, you won’t be able to ask people if they have symptoms yourself, but you can request that your estate agent does.
So, Is It Right To Sell Your Property During The COVID-10 Outbreak?
As we’ve discussed, unless the Government advises otherwise, it’s perfectly acceptable to list your property for sale during the pandemic.
That does, of course, assume no one living at your property has any symptoms. If they do then that changes our advice considerably.
However, providing you are following the advice of experts and taking the necessary precautions to protect both yourself and the people visiting your home, we see no reason why the property market should be brought to a standstill.
Just be aware that while the pandemic is ongoing, there may be a reduced demand for properties. That means you may end up having to accept a lower price in order to achieve a sale. There is also a chance any sales progression will take longer as everyone tries to deal with the pandemic the best they can.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that due to their nature, online estate agents tend to have much less human contact than high street agents. While some may have previously seen this as a negative, there are clearly advantages to this at the present time which may make online agents more appealing.
Some online agents such as Housesimple even offer a ‘sell for free’ service which will help to reduce your risk during this uncertain time.