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How to keep your buy-to-let afloat AND help tenants in the lockdown: From rent cuts to mortgage holidays?

“A Long Time Ago … In a Galaxy Far, Far Away…”
Landlords are eligible for three-month mortgage payment holidays
But should you offer tenants who are working from home a payment holiday?
Does offering a rent holiday place you in breach of your mortgage contract?
What legal documents do you need if you agree a rent holiday?
The coronavirus lockdown has caused severe financial strain for millions of people across Britain, prompting unprecedented financial aid packages from the Government for businesses and individuals alike.
While mortgage payment holidays of up to three months are being offered to both homeowners and landlords, who may struggle to keep up with repayments during the lockdown, renters have been told they will be able to stay in their homes during lockdown even if they fall behind with payments.
Meanwhile, the Government has officially asked landlords ‘to show compassion and to allow tenants who are affected by this to remain in their homes wherever possible’.
What does this mean for landlords in practice though? Should you be proactive with tenants and offer them a temporary rent holiday, knowing that they may be suffering?
From speaking to landlords and letting agents, This is Money knows that many are actively trying to help their tenants through tough times and willing to do what they can for those whose finances have been sideswiped by coronavirus.
On the flipside, how should you react to tenants asking for a rent reduction when you know full well they’re still working full-time from home and your checks when they moved in showed they had a big salary and lots of cash?
What should I do if my tenants want a rent reduction?
There’s no right answer to this but everyone agrees that the most important thing to do is talk to tenants to understand why they need a reduction.
Steve Harriott, chief executive of the TDS tenancy deposit protection scheme, says: ‘Under the new guidelines tenants are still liable for their rent, however, if they are facing financial hardship there is support out there.
‘It’s really important during this unprecedented situation that the lines of communication between renter and landlord are kept open.
‘Now is the time to be having an honest and frank conversation about rents and financial concerns, working together to put a rent payment scheme in place.’
Angus Stewart of online buy-to-let adviser Property Master argues that in most cases, it will make sense to agree to a rent reduction temporarily.
‘If they ask for a rent reduction it would be logical to look favourably on it if they have been a good tenant in the past,’ he advises.
‘If you can still afford to cover that loss for a couple of months it is a sensible thing to do as the last thing you want at the moment is an empty property.’
Jeni Browne, sales director at buy-to-let specialist adviser Mortgages for Business, says they have been talking to many landlords over the past fortnight and the most frequent approach is to defer rent payment rather than offer tenants a waiver.
The view from lenders is along the same lines. Bob Young, chief executive of specialist buy-to-let lender Fleet Mortgages, says many landlords, where possible, are already helping.
‘Providing temporary help, especially if they’re good tenants, is likely to be the sensible option for most landlords,’ he adds.
Will I be in breach of my mortgage contract?
In ordinary circumstances, it’s possible that allowing your tenants to pay less rent than agreed in their tenancy agreement would breach your contract with your lender. But these are not ordinary circumstances.
Young’s view, as a lender, is that you should be fine to agree a temporary rate reduction with your tenant if they require it.
Stewart agrees: ‘This is an exceptional situation and it is likely your lender would rather have some revenue from you than none. In these difficult times it is hard to see a lender wanting to enforce any breach of contract against you if you have explained the situation and are seeking to make some sort of payment.’
David Cox, chief executive of ARLA Propertymark, suggests where a rent reduction is essential, landlords, tenants and letting agents should again undertake the affordability check on the tenants’ finances that happens during the initial referencing stage.
‘It’s important to understand what tenants could afford on any reduced or furloughed income,’ he explains.
‘It would also need to be made clear whether this is a temporary rent reduction or a deferral.
‘If it’s a deferral, a payment plan will need to be set up to ensure the tenant clears the rent arrears that are accrued during this period.
‘Additionally, landlords and agents will need to be clear about whether they will implement the interest clauses that exist for rent arrears on most tenancy agreements.’
Should I offer my tenants a rent reduction, even if they haven’t asked for one?
This is Money has heard several examples of landlords generously offering tenants a temporary rent reduction during the coronavirus lockdown – even where tenants don’t request it.
Whether you should offer is really down to you and whether you can afford to.
Voluntarily getting into mortgage arrears on your buy-to-let is not sensible and will be costly.
Chris Sykes, a broker at Private Finance, warns: ‘Some tenants may have interpreted the government mortgage holiday announcement as a way for their landlord to simply pocket three months of rent, when, in fact, those mortgage payments will still need to be paid in the long run.
‘Clarifying this offers landlords a way to communicate with their tenants, understand their current position and potentially offer a reduction.’
He adds: ‘Every landlord will take their own approach to managing their tenants’ payments.
‘It often depends on a landlord’s long-term plan – and how much they value a tenant as part of this.’
Stewart also points out that many people won’t need a payment holiday: ‘There are still many people in secure employment and not in need of a rent reduction.
‘If your tenants come to you because they have for example lost their job or suffering a serious reduction in income, then you should certainly consider helping them.’
Will I need a legal contract in place?
It should be sufficient to have a letter confirming in writing what you have agreed with the tenant, the amount of rent they will pay and the dates the reduction applies, according to Stewart.
‘It is very important to have certainty on both sides and a written and signed agreement will help in this regard,’ says Stewart, who advises that landlords also think about agreeing a repayment schedule to make up any rent reductions or rent holidays.
‘For the tenant it may well be better off asking for a reduction in rent as less will build up in arrears,’ he says.
Young adds: ‘Obviously if you give a rent holiday you are not protecting your income, and you would certainly need something between you and the tenant confirming the arrangement in writing.
‘They may need this as evidence to support a claim for state assistance, for example.’
How do I apply for a buy-to-let mortgage payment holiday?
As is also the case for homeowners applying for a payment holiday, the sooner you contact your buy-to-let lender the better.
Nearly all lenders are reporting a huge surge in customer enquiries and we’re hearing lots of complaints about the time it’s taking to get through on the phone.
Depending on your lender, there may be an option to fill in a request online as a first step.
Many landlords have portfolios of properties and may need to make multiple applications for leeway from a number of different lenders.
It’s possible that your mortgage adviser will be able to assist you with this, though you should expect to pay something for this service.
‘It is absolutely essential to agree in advance any repayment holiday with your lender,’ warns Stewart.
‘To simply miss payments without that agreement will adversely affect your credit record.’
David Hollingworth, of mortgage broker London & Country, adds: ‘Make sure you understand the knock-on effect of a payment holiday.
‘Just because there are no payments made doesn’t mean that interest doesn’t continue to accrue.
‘At the end of the payment holiday the outstanding balance will be rescheduled over the remaining term, so payments will most likely be higher and more interest payable over the life of the loan.’
Will insurance pay out for rent shortfalls related to coronavirus?
There have been reports that insurers aren’t paying out where rent shortfalls due to coronavirus are given as the reason for the claim.
Indeed, both Young and Stewart agree that although different insurers and policies will offer different levels of cover, it’s unlikely that your rent arrears will be covered.
Check the small print in your policy document carefully.
Keep calm and carry on
While the lockdown continues, all the experts agree that finances will need to be flexible but the message to landlords is not to panic.
‘Landlords need to be sensible and use their common sense,’ counsels Young. ‘Some tenants will ask for relief and you’ll need to respond accordingly, weighing up both their and your situation.
‘This is likely to be a temporary issue and hopefully both landlord and tenant will be able to work through these issues with that in mind.
‘From a landlord’s perspective, investing in property has its highs and lows and you need to look at this with a long-term perspective. Indeed, investments of all kinds have their ups and downs, as those heavily invested in the equities market through their pension schemes have also discovered.
‘Property still remains a good long-term asset to invest in, despite what is happening in the market right now.’
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Furlough pay – some agents’ commission can be included

Furlough pay - some agents’ commission can be included











The government has amended the eligibility criteria and will allow some agents’ commission payments to be included in claims for Furloughed Pay.

An announcement came via NAEA and ARLA Propertymark which has received clarification from the government. A joint NAEA/ARLA statement says:

The clarification states that agents will be able to claim for any regular payments that they are obliged to pay employees including

– wages;

– past overtime;

– fees;

– compulsory commission payments.

Discretionary bonuses and commission payments however, and non-cash payments cannot be included.

In circumstances where the employee has been employed for 12 months or more, you can claim the highest of either:

– the same month’s earning from the previous year;

– average monthly earnings for the 2019-2020 tax year.

Where the employee has been employed for less than 12 months, employers can claim for 80% of their average monthly earnings since they started work.

The scheme is in place from 1 March 2020 for 3 months and may be extended if necessary. To be eligible for the grant, a furloughed employee must have been enrolled on the company’s PAYE payroll and cannot undertake work for, or on behalf of, the organisation. Staff who are working reduced hours are not eligible for pay to be reimbursed.

Where an employee has been made redundant on or after 28 February 2020, agents can re-employ them, put them on furlough and claim for their wages through the scheme.

A furloughed employee is free to take part in voluntary work if this is in line with public health guidance, as long as they are not providing services for their employer.

Furloughed employees are free to participate in training and this is encouraged as long as it is not part of work to generate income for the organisation within the furlough period.

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Planning for post-lockdown – how to hit the ground running

Planning for post-lockdown - how to hit the ground running

Over the last two weeks we’ve seen the country come to a standstill and the property market effectively put on ice until we are out of lockdown.

The next few months are going to be incredibly difficult for everyone, but it is vital that agents take this time to start planning for the future. Taking the right steps over the next few weeks will be key to ensuring that you’re ready to hit the ground running as soon as some of the current restrictions are lifted.

Unlike after the last recession, current predictions are that the market could recover relatively quickly, but what evidence do we have to support that theory?

Following the General Election in December, pent up demand from people who had been holding back due to Brexit uncertainty, flowed into the marketplace. Could that stand us in good stead for a quick recovery?

Let’s look at the figures…

The data – exchanges

Looking at the change in volumes of Exchanged triggers, we can see that the largest increase in exchanged properties came from the £1 million+ price bracket, with property prices from £400,000 to £1 million not far behind.

Planning for post-lockdown - how to hit the ground running

Both top brackets were experiencing unprecedented double digit growth year-on-year.

In addition, the £200,000 to £400,000 price bracket was also seeing a very healthy growth in exchanges year-on-year.

You could, however, make a strong argument to suggest that a large portion of this effect was not as a result of electoral stability, because it takes so long to complete a property purchase.

Looking at the volume of changes in sales agreed (or SSTC) would perhaps provide an even better view of what happened in the first few weeks of 2020 compared with the prior year.

The data – sales agreed

This chart adds the Sales Agreed (or SSTC) trigger changes to the Exchanged triggers and it certainly makes interesting reading.

Planning for post-lockdown - how to hit the ground running

Firstly, we can clearly see that the changes to SSTC volumes were far more dramatic in all price brackets – roughly double the growth in exchanged triggers.

In properties above £400,000, we were seeing north of 23% growth and the £200,000 to £400,000 bracket, a more than healthy 15% growth in sales agreed.

The only slight downside is that the sales agreed growth rate in properties under £200,000 was comparatively very low.

The high street agent effect

Now let’s look at the market share of high street agents versus hybrids (those without a traditional branch network).

Planning for post-lockdown - how to hit the ground running

The market share of new instructions by price bracket for hybrid agents is shown in this chart.

What we see here is that a hybrid agent’s market share was highest in the poorest price bracket where sales agreed volumes were growing much slower year-on-year than they were in the other three price brackets.

This means that the benefit of the increase in sales seen since the election of 2019 will have been disproportionately felt by the more traditional high street estate agent.

Of the growth in sales that has been experienced to date in the £200,000 to £400,000 selling price bracket, nearly 93% of this will have gone to high street agents.

As we move onto the £400,000 to £1 million selling price bracket, just under 95% of the benefit will have gone to high street agents.

And finally, in the specialised £1 million plus selling price bracket, nearly 99% of the benefit will have flowed through to high street agents!

So what does this mean for the future?

Unfortunately, no-one knows how long lockdown will continue or indeed, exactly what the future of the property market looks like. However, looking at the performance of the market up until mid-March 2020 tells us a few things;

– A high volume of people actively wanted to move
– This was most prevalent for properties in the £200k+ price bracket and even more so at £400k+
– The majority of this activity was taking place with high street agents

Although unfortunately some of these agreed sales will recently have fallen through and many properties will now have been withdrawn from the market, the likelihood is that most of these people will still want to move once they are allowed to.

This should create increased demand on available stock, thereby encouraging more new instructions. The best news is that once these vendors do return to the market, sales should continue to be high value and skewed towards high street agents.

What can you do in the meantime?

It is essential that you maintain contact with those vendors either already on the market, or who have recently withdrawn – both your own and those of your competitors.

Now, more than ever, you must look after your pipeline so that you’re not starting from scratch when the market inevitably picks back up.

This is an opportunity to establish a ‘trusted advisor’ relationship with these vendors, offering them help and guidance when their future move now seems uncertain.

At times like these how you treat your customers and potential customers is paramount. They will need far more hand-holding and direct communication. Some agents are not going to do this and, as such, we are likely to see even more agent switching once we are out of lockdown as vendors become frustrated with a lack of support from their existing agent.

It is vital, though, that what you’re sending is sensitive to the current situation and you don’t just continue to send the same message as you would have done a few weeks or even days ago.

Now that you’re not spending your time on the usual day-to-day tasks use it as an opportunity to really work on the content of your communications and make sure the messages you send highlight the changing requirements of the current marketplace.

Talk about the services you offer that can help vendors restart their property sale as quickly as possible once we’re out of lockdown; share your plans on;

– Virtual tours
– Accompanied remote viewings
– Floor plans
– Live streaming of ‘virtual open houses’
– Online auctions
– ‘Little Black Books’ promoting ‘the best kept secrets’ or houses not openly marketed and see if sellers want to be on it

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Poorly-treated agents will change firms after the virus – forecast

Poorly-treated agents will change firms after the virus - forecast

A leading human resources expert predicts that agents who are poorly treated by their employers now will wreak revenge and move elsewhere when the virus subsides.

Recruitment guru Anthony Hesse, managing director of Property Personnel, says that when some form of normality returns “Those who have been treated poorly by their current employers won’t forget the experience in a hurry, and will start to look for other jobs – either within the industry or elsewhere.

“I expect to see a seismic shift in people moving around from job to job, and from profession to profession, with some of them making the move to becoming self-employed. Inevitably, a number of experienced and talented staff will leave, who we will be sad to see go and will be hard to replace.”

He says that one of the lasting legacies of this outbreak will be an increased understanding of why a good work/life balance is so important – and he forecasts that those agencies that recognise this will retain and attract the best staff.

“Over the past week or so of lockdown, I’ve been speaking to a number of senior directors in the big estate agency firms … the perspective I’ve been getting is that we are inevitably going to see some massive restructuring taking place in the estate agencies of the future.

“Most obviously, a new awareness of just what technology can do is going to drive decision making going forward. The ease and speed with which people have taken to communication platforms such as Zoom, Skype, and Messenger – and some of these individuals doing so for the first time – mean that virtual viewings and even virtual valuations could become the norm.

“Directors will ask why their agency doesn’t do more of what worked so successfully during time under lockdown. This means that operations are likely to be streamlined, and people previously brought in as temporary staff – such as those carrying out viewings at weekends, for example – might find that their workloads have melted away.

“Similarly, agencies with several branches across a relatively small geographic area will decide that a single office can do the job of three, with significant cost savings as a result.”

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Corona Latest: New tenant checks, Virtual staging, Global agency impact

coronavirus Archives - So Cheshire

Hello and welcome to our latest update… we’re probably not yet getting used to these unusual times but we hope this daily service helps provide some guidance.

First off today, Right To Rent’s new Coronavirus changes.

Letting Agent Today ran a story earlier this week on how Right To Rent is being relaxed during the current crisis, and now the Association of Residential Letting Agents has published a short guide on how to conduct a check on a prospective tenant.

– Ask the tenant to submit a scanned copy or a photo of their original documents via email or using a mobile app;

– Arrange a video call with the tenant – ask them to hold up the original documents to the camera and check them against the digital copy of the documents;

– Record the date you made the check and mark it as “an adjusted check has been undertaken on [insert date] due to COVID-19”.

If the tenant does not have the right documents you must contact the Landlord’s Checking Service if the tenant cannot provide documents from the prescribed lists.

These measures remain in place until the point when government announce a return to previous arrangements. After that, agents must revert to existing processes.

Within eight weeks of the temporary measures being lifted, agents will also need to carry out full retrospective checks on tenants who:

– Started their tenancy during this period;

– Required a follow-up check during this period.

ARLA says that in these cases, it is essential to keep records of both checks and if the retrospective checks reveal a tenant who should not have entered/continued a tenancy, follow the processes to end the tenancy.

And the association adds: “Please note that because of COVID-19 some individuals may be unable to evidence their Right to Rent and therefore it is vital that agents remember the processes within the code that are in place in order to avoid discrimination.”

Something unusual next – virtual staging.

Many agents, especially in London, ‘stage’ empty properties to enhance their appeal. Expert advice is difficult to get in person during the lockdown but Elaine Penhaul, owner of Lemon and Lime Interiors, is offering two services tailored for the current situation.

The two – virtual home staging and remote staging – will allow vendors and agents to get properties in the right position for a quick sale once the market recovers later in the year.

Elaine, who started staging in 2012 and set up the company in 2015, says: “As an agent you want to help those vendors who have a property they need to sell, to be the first to secure good offers when the market picks up later in the year. This new service allows us to help agents offer vendors the perfect solution whilst we are not able to be out and about.”

The virtual home staging service allows vendors and agents to take a high-resolution picture of an empty room and send it to Lemon and Lime Interiors. The team then virtually fill the room with an interior design scheme and luxury furnishings to make the property looked lived in, which in turn, will help people to visualise themselves living in the property.

All the furniture used is available to purchase so the whole scheme can be bought by whoever buys the house should they wish.

The remote home staging service offers homeowners the chance to have a video call with the Lemon and Lime team of experienced home stagers to learn how to present their home to attract the most interest.

Once any decluttering or rearranging has been done, the homeowner can take photos which can be professionally edited through Lemon and Lime ready to be uploaded to the property portals. Properties already on the market can improve their presentation and appeal in this way and it allows new properties to come to the market with the benefit of professional staging.

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Conquering Corona – portal offer, live events, mental health help

Conquering Corona - portal offer, live events, mental health help

Hello and welcome to the latest edition of Conquering Corona, our daily update helping the industry cope with the current crisis.

If you have appropriate advice to share with the industry, please email us on and we’ll let other agents and suppliers see it too.

Firstly today there’s an offer by high-profile free to list portal Residential People, which is allowing agents to enjoy all its premium features and advertising for free whilst the pandemic is ongoing – additionally, existing customers will have their contracts extended.

Residential People’s ‘featured property’ listing offers agents the ability to exclusively advertise within a desired location, and gives them access to an online marketing suite. You can see more here.

“The Coronavirus has had a drastic impact on the livelihood of estate agents and businesses across the UK” says Residential People sales and managing director, Roy Bartolo.

Now news of a survey by the lettings trade body the Residential Landlords Association; it’s asking members a series of question on the impact of Coronavirus.

There’s been a strong response so far, so if other RLA members want to participate – and it’ll take just a few minutes – you can click here.

Now an idea put forward by London agent Kristjan Byfield, who is urging agents to undertake regular live events online where they can share their knowledge and experience.

He’s called in the #AgentsHereToHelp initiative and hopes the idea will lift agents’ spirits during the crisis as well as share ideas.

Some 20 agents have already signed up including David Lee, Keller Williams, Fine & Country*, Roseberry Newhouse, Danelaw Real Estate, Maurice Kilbride, NestledIn, Normie & Co, Jackie Oliver & Co, McDowalls, Mr Green, Ferndown, Robinson Michael & Jackson, Logic Estates, GoView, Dreamview, Stones and Belvoir, as aeell as Kristjan’s own agency base property specialists.

He wants to launch this campaign in the next week and has set up a registration form for agents to complete – you can see it here.

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Housing market could be ‘frozen’ to avoid Coronavirus crash

Housing market could be ‘frozen’ to avoid Coronavirus crash

It’s been reported that the government is talking with banks and building societies about putting the housing market ‘on ice’ during the virus crisis to avoid a crash and to allow financial institutions to offer mortgages.

Today’s Financial Times says UK Finance – the trade body representing mortgage lenders – has told members: “UK Finance has been seeking urgent clarification from the government about whether home purchases should continue at the current time, particularly as physical property valuations are no longer possible.”

One suggestion is that offers of mortgages in principle could extend to six months rather than three.

The FT story follows growing concern yesterday that many mortgage lenders were withdrawing their products or severely restricting access to them; this was thought to be because valuations were not possible ‘in person’, and because of uncertainty that homes would retain their value over the coming months.

Lloyds Banking Group and Barclays, two of the UK’s biggest lenders, are temporarily pulling many of their mortgages. Lloyds has stopped offering mortgages or remortgages through brokers unless the customer has a deposit of at least 40 per cent of the value of the property.

Barclays told brokers it would no longer offer mortgages for customers that did not have a deposit of at least 40 per cent, but it will continue to offer remortgaging deals.

Last evening the Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick, took to Twitter to say: “I know that many people across the country are due to move house tomorrow. Whilst emergency measures are in place, all parties should do all they can to agree a new move date. If you’re socially isolating or being shielded, it’s especially important to try and delay.”

And this was followed up by tweets from the MHCLG saying: “People should delay moving where possible … Estate agents must work remotely to support their clients … If your home is on the market, you shouldn’t let buyers visit your home.”

Earlier this week the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government had advised buyers and renters to, if at all possible, delay moving home until the Coronavirus crisis has subsided.

The same guidance also allows tradespeople to continue repairs and maintenance work, “provided that the tradesperson is well and has no symptoms.”

“No work should be carried out in any household which is isolating or where an individual is being shielded, unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household, such as emergency plumbing or repairs, and where the tradesperson is willing to do so.”

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Agents Beware: definitive government guidance on buying and selling

Agents Beware: definitive government guidance on buying and selling

The government has at last issued extensive advice on home moving and the activities of estate agents during the continuing Coronavirus crisis.

This came last evening after days of debate on how much marketing, valuing, viewing and conveyancing could be done during the lockdown.

Here is the guidance in full:

There is no need to pull out of transactions, but we all need to ensure we are following guidance to stay at home and away from others at all times, including the specific measures for those who are presenting symptoms, self-isolating or shielding. Prioritising the health of individuals and the public must be the priority.

Where the property being moved into is vacant, then you can continue with this transaction although you should follow the guidance in this document on home removals. Where the property is currently occupied, we encourage all parties to do all they can to amicably agree alternative dates to move, for a time when it is likely that stay-at-home measures against coronavirus (COVID-19) will no longer be in place.

In the new emergency enforcement powers that the police have been given to respond to coronavirus, there is an exemption for critical home moves, in the event that a new date is unable to be agreed.

Recognising parties will need to alter common practice, we have sought to ease this process for all involved by:

  1. Issuing this guidance, developed with Public Health England, to home buyers and those involved in the selling and moving process;
  2. Agreeing with banks that mortgage offers should be extended where delay to completions takes place in order to prioritise safety; and,
  3. Working with Conveyancers to develop a standard legal process for moving completion dates.

Advice to the public

What does this mean for my property move which is scheduled whilst the stay-at-home measures to fight coronavirus (COIVD-19) apply?

  • Home buyers and renters should, where possible, delay moving to a new house while measures are in place to fight coronavirus (COVID-19).
  • Our advice is that if you have already exchanged contracts and the property is currently occupied then all parties should work together to agree a delay or another way to resolve this matter.
  • If moving is unavoidable for contractual reasons and the parties are unable to reach an agreement to delay, people must follow advice on staying away from others to minimise the spread of the virus.
  • In line with Government’s advice, anyone with symptoms, self-isolating or shielding from the virus, should follow medical advice which will mean not moving house for the time being, if at all possible. All parties should prioritise agreeing amicable arrangements to change move dates for individuals in this group, or where someone in a chain is in this group.

What if an extension goes beyond the terms of a mortgage agreement?

UK Finance have today confirmed that, to support customers who have already exchanged contracts for house purchases and set dates for completion, all mortgage lenders are working to find ways to enable customers who have exchanged contracts to extend their mortgage offer for up to three months to enable them to move at a later date.

If a customer’s circumstances change during this three month period or the terms of the house purchase change significantly and continuing with the mortgage would cause house buyers to face financial hardship, lenders will work with customers to help them manage their finances as a matter of urgency.

If your home is not yet on the market

Getting your home onto the market may be more challenging than usual in this period.There should be no visitors to your home. You can speak to Estate Agents over the phone and they will be able to give you general advice about the local property market and handle certain matters remotely but they will not be able to start actively marketing your home in the usual manner.

  • If you are thinking about selling, you can use this time to start gathering together all of the information you will need to provide to potential purchasers.
  • Advice for people to stay at home and away from others means you should not invite unnecessary visitors into your home, including: Property Agents to carry out a market appraisal or take internal photographs prior to marketing your home; and Energy Performance Certificate assessors.


If your property is already on the market, you can continue to advertise it as being for sale but you should not allow people in to view your property.

  • There should not be any visitors into your home, and you should therefore not let people visit your property for viewings. Your agent may be able to conduct virtual viewings and you could speak to them about this possibility.

Accepting offers

The buying and selling process can continue during this period but you should be aware that the process is likely to take longer than normal.

  • You are free to continue to accept offers on your property, however the selling process may take longer.
  • Advice for people to stay at home and away from others means you should not invite visitors into your home, including prospective buyers or advisors.

Exchanging contracts

Once you have exchanged contracts, you have entered into a legal agreement to purchase that home.

  • If the property you are purchasing in unoccupied you can continue with the transaction.
  • If the property you are purchasing is currently occupied, we recommend that all parties should work either delay the exchange of contracts until after the period where stay-at-home measures to fight coronavirus (COVID-19) are in place, or include explicit contractual provisions to take account of the risks presented by the virus.

Advice to industry

All businesses must follow the Government’s latest Guidance for employers and businesses on coronavirus (COVID-19).

Estate Agents

Estate Agents should ensure they are able to support clients during this period:

  • Agents should work with their clients and other agents to broker a new date to move where sales are due to complete on occupied properties in the current period where emergency measures are in place to fight coronavirus (COVID-19).
  • Agents should prioritise support for anyone with symptoms, self-isolating or shielding from the virus, and those they are in chain with, to agree a new date.
  • In line with advice for certain businesses to close, agents should not open branches to the public during this period, or visit people’s homes to carry out market appraisals.
  • Agents should ensure that employees can work from home, to support existing clients and advise potential new clients.
  • Agents should continue to progress sales where this can be done whilst following guidance to stay at home and away from others.
  • Agents should advise clients to be patient and not to exchange contracts unless the contracts have explicit terms to manage the timing risks presented by the virus.


Conveyancers should continue to support the sales process as far as possible and should make sure their clients are aware of the difficulties of completing transactions in this period:

  • Conveyancers should continue to support the sales of unoccupied properties as far as possible.
  • Conveyancers should make every effort to support clients who are due to complete on occupied properties in the stay-at-home period to change this date.
  • Conveyancers should advise their clients who are ready to move not to exchange contracts on an occupied property unless they have made explicit provision for the risks presented by the virus.
  • Conveyancers should prioritise support anyone with symptoms, self-isolating or shielding from the virus and those they are in chain with, and we urge them to do all they can to help a new date to be agreed in these circumstances.


Surveyors should not expect to carry out non-urgent surveys in homes where people are in residence, and no inspections should take place if any person in the property is showing symptoms, self-isolating or being shielded. It may be possible to carry out some of your work online and also carry out urgent surveys on empty properties, or those where the occupants are out of the property or following guidance to stay at home and away from others.

  • Surveyors should follow the latest Government guidance which currently (26 March 2020) states that work carried out in people’s homes can continue, provided the tradesperson is well and has no symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19).
  • It is important to ensure Government guidelines are followed, including maintaining a 2 metre distance from others, and washing their hands with soap and water often for at least 20 seconds (or using hand sanitiser gel if soap and water is not available).
  • No work should be carried out by a person who has coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms, however mild.

Removals Firms

There will be people who have already committed to moving home; where possible we are encouraging them to delay their move but a small number of moves may need to go ahead. We would urge everyone to take all sensible precautions to ensure the move can happen safely.

  • Removers should honour their existing commitments where it is clear that the move can be done safely for the client and your own staff and it is clear that the moving date cannot be moved.
  • Removers should follow the latest Government guidance which currently (26 March 2020) states that work carried out in people’s homes can continue, provided the tradesperson is well and has no symptoms or coronavirus (COVID-19).
  • It is important to ensure Government guidelines are followed, including maintaining a 2 metre distance from others, and washing their hands with soap and water often for at least 20 seconds (or using hand sanitiser gel if soap and water is not available).
  • No work should be carried out by a person who has coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms, however mild.
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Vendors can create video tours for agents to market – here’s how…

Vendors can create video tours for agents to market - here’s how…

A video has been launched this morning explaining how agents can get their sellers and landlords to use iPhones to make videos appropriate for marketing.

The ‘How To Do It’ video is 12 minutes long and produced by industry consultant Chris Watkin, and it’s shared below with Estate Agent Today readers.

Chris says: “Have a look at the video and then send it to all your landlords and vendors. Make yourself look pro-active as an agent.

“Please tag every agent you know to ensure they can help their clients too. This isn’t the time for rivalry with competitors – let’s help each other.”

Later this week Chris will be revealing a video series for agents to learn how to edit videos like a pro using inexpensive software and a small amount of hardware.

This may be exactly what the industry needs for the next few months.

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Government tells agents to shut offices immediately

Government tells agents to shut offices immediately

Propertymark has been told the agents should shut their offices immediately – they are not “essential businesses” under the new Coronavirus safety guidance.

A statement from Propertymark issued this afternoon says:

“Propertymark has spoken to a senior civil servant at Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Goverment (MHCLG) this morning. 

“The civil servant stated that agents are not ‘essential businesses’ under the new rules and therefore their view is that agents should close their offices immediately.

“Furthermore, they stated that there should not be any in-person viewings, routine inspections or house moves.

“MHCLG is still looking into property maintenance tasks such as gas safety checks and hopes to issue guidance on these points as soon as possible.

 “In a further development, British Association of Removers (BAR) has issued communications this morning instructing members that moves should only be completed if they are already underway, any move that has not yet started, should not go ahead. 

“Propertymark will keep members up to date later today and as any further information becomes available.”