Last week it was announced that the property market can reopen with physical viewings and home moves allowed to resume from 29th June.
Government guidance on how to safely conduct these activities has now been published and we have summarised the keys points below.
This guidance contains advice to ensure that moving home in any tenure and supporting activities, such as viewing property, can happen safely during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in Scotland.
This guidance applies from 29 June 2020. Until then, the rules on house moves still apply.
All home moves are permitted, provided they can be carried out safely. This includes students moving home and other home moves resulting in two households merging.
Members of the public are allowed to leave their homes in order to move home and undertake activities in connection with the purchase, sale, letting or rental of a residential property including:
- visiting estate or letting agents, developer sales offices or show homes
- viewing a residential property to look for a property to buy or rent
- preparing a residential property to move in
- moving home or
- visiting a residential property to undertake any activities required for the rental or sale of that property.
People working for relevant organisations and businesses can also travel to work where necessary in order to undertake these activities in a safe manner.
This is not a return to normality
The process of finding and moving into a new home is different from before COVID-19. Those involved in the process will have to adapt practices and procedures to ensure that the risk of spread of COVID-19 is reduced as far as possible. This will include doing more of the process online, such as virtual viewings and ensuring that you continue to follow advice on physical distancing, hand washing and respiratory hygiene.
Property moves while measures to fight COVID-19 apply
You are allowed to move home. However, the process of finding and moving into a new home is likely to be different, as all of those involved in the process will need to adapt practices and procedures.
In order to minimise public health risks and allow home moves to happen as safely as possible, the following measures should be followed:
- initial viewings should be done virtually wherever this is possible and property agents (estate agents) and landlords should help you to do this.
- all physical viewings should be arranged by appointment only and open house viewings should not take place. You should not view any properties if you have COVID-19 symptoms or are self-isolating.
- when physically viewing properties, where possible, you should avoid touching surfaces, wash your hands with soap and water before entering the property or use alcohol-based hand rub (hand sanitiser).
- the number of people attending a viewing at one time should be restricted so that physical distancing can be practised. You should only be accompanied to viewings with members of your current household and/or your property agent, social landlord or private landlord or representative. If you need to be accompanied by young children, you should try to stop them touching surfaces and ensure they wash their hands regularly.
- if people are being shown around or working in your current home, while you are still living there, you should open all internal doors and ensure surfaces, such as door handles, are cleaned before and after each viewing with standard household cleaning products.
- where possible, we recommend that you vacate your property whilst viewings are taking place, unless you are conducting the viewing. This is in order to minimise your contact with those not in your household.
- when moving between properties, you and those in your household should try to do as much of the packing yourself as you can. Where this is not possible, you should speak to removal firms in advance.
If you are particularly worried about the risk of infection, then speak to the professionals involved, your landlord, letting agent, property agent or removers as they may be able to put in place extra measures.
Everyone involved in any aspect of the moving process must follow government guidelines on physical distancing, handwashing and the use of face coverings to minimise the spread of the virus. You should also keep up to date with current advice on keeping yourself and others safe.
We recommend that you consider wearing a face covering when in contact with other people from outside your household involved in activities related to buying or selling your home.
Use of face coverings is not a substitute for physical distancing practices, which must be maintained wherever possible.
Necessary travel involved in moving home, and associated activities is allowed. You should check the advice on how-to-travel-safely before undertaking any journeys in connection with moving home.
This advice also applies to students who may be moving out of student accommodation, including returning to accommodation to collect belongings.
Steps in the moving home process
Preparing to buy, sell or move home
- You can put your home on the market and start to look for properties you want to move into.
- you can begin to market your home and property agents are able to visit in order to take photos/videos of the property, in accordance with public health guidelines. If any member of the household being viewed is showing symptoms or is self-isolating, then property agents should not physically visit the property.
- to help prevent the spread of infection, we encourage you to do the majority of your property searching online and only physically view those properties which you believe you are most likely to want to move into.
- as usual, you can also start to bring together the documentation necessary to sell your property.
- surveys, and Home Reports, can also be carried out. You should continue to follow health advice and physical distancing while a survey is being carried out. The surveyor should also contact you before any home visit to let you know what you should expect and what steps they will be taking to ensure the visit meets health requirements. In relation to custom and self-build projects, surveyors can visit and undertake valuations of plots you wish to purchase.
- if you are buying a new build property, you should make contact with the housebuilder in the usual way. You should be able to view the show home or visit the particular plot you are interested in purchasing, by appointment only and in accordance with public health guidelines. The developer or builder may also have their own procedures and you should check with them before viewing.
People should use virtual viewings before visiting properties in person where possible, in order to minimise public health risks.
If any member of either the household being viewed or the household undertaking a viewing is showing symptoms of COVID-19 or is self-isolating, then a physical viewing should be delayed.
If you are a tenant who is shielding, you should not be compelled to allow viewings and your landlord or letting agent should check this with you beforehand.
All viewings should take place by appointment and only involve members of a single household.
- we encourage people to do the majority of their property searching online. Initial viewings should be done virtually wherever this is possible. Physical viewings should only be conducted where people are seriously considering making an offer on, or renting, a property, or where a prospective tenant is being offered a rental property and a virtual viewing is not possible.
- to support this, agents may ask home occupiers to conduct virtual viewings. This will help reduce the number of properties people need to visit before finding their future home.
- viewings should be conducted by appointment only and no open house viewings should take place.
- if your property is being viewed, while you are living in it, you should open all the internal doors prior to the viewing.
- where possible, we encourage all members of the household to vacate the property whilst viewings are taking place, unless you are conducting the viewing, in order to minimise contact with those not in your household.
- landlords and letting agents should not conduct viewings in properties where tenants are showing symptoms or self-isolating, or where it has been determined that they are shielding.
- before viewing a property, all parties should wash their hands with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand rub (hand sanitiser) and avoid touching surfaces where possible. Access to hand washing facilities should be provided, using separate towels or paper towels if possible, which should be washed or disposed of safely. In rental properties, the landlord/seller should be responsible for providing these. We also recommend that you consider using a face covering (see above). You should restrict the number of people who accompany you on a viewing so that physical distancing can be practised. Only those in your immediate household and/or your agent should accompany you. If you need to be accompanied by young children, you should try to keep them from touching surfaces and ensure they wash their hands regularly.
- where viewings are unaccompanied by an agent, social housing or private rented sector representatives; viewers and home occupiers should comply with physical distancing and health advice.
- all surfaces, such as door handles, should be cleaned with standard household cleaning products before and after each viewing and towels disposed of safely or washed as appropriate. In rental properties, the landlord/seller should be responsible for providing the cleaning products and towels.
Making offers or reservations
You are free to make or accept an offer or reserve a property as normal.
- there is a greater risk that parties may need to delay their move because someone is showing symptoms of COVID-19 or self-isolating. When buying a property, your solicitor will be able to advise you and help make any contracts or agreements as flexible as possible to accommodate this risk.
- prospective purchasers may wish to visit a property again once they have agreed a sale, for example to measure up. Where this has been agreed, the above advice on prioritising virtual visits, hygiene measures, maintaining physical distancing at all times and mitigating contact should be followed.
- purchasers may also want to send in tradespeople to carry out inspections. Where possible, these should be scheduled with one person visiting the property at any time. No tradespeople should enter a property where a member of the household is showing symptoms of COVID-19 or self-isolating. Where a tradesperson is visiting the property, the occupier should maintain physical distancing, wash their hands regularly and minimise contact as far as possible, for example by staying in another room. These visits should be carried out in line with current guidance.
- when renting a property from a social housing or private sector landlord the landlord, or property agent, will usually make contact by phone to establish that you are in a position to accept an offer and are able to move in by the date of entry agreed. They will also explain the process for viewing the property and signing the tenancy agreement.
The guidance also includes information for solicitors, surveyors and removal firms and can be read in full here - https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-moving-home/
At Scottish Property Centre we are ready to go because we’ve been preparing for this moment for weeks.
We have Personal Protective Equipment, we have stocked up on sanitisers, social distancing signs and prepared our Be Clean Be Safe protocols and policies.
We look forward to start serving our clients safely, sensibly, and successfully.