This week we got the announcement that the Housing Market can re-open, estate agents can re-open and viewings are allowed (subject to social distancing).  This is a welcome announcement for many (though I appreciate that it has been met with some criticism by some compared to the more generic rules we are all following re: visiting those outside our households).  The same announcement also saw the green light for tradespeople to work inside people’s homes again, subject to appropriate measures, along with conveyancers and removal firms.  Following on from this, regulatory bodies such as the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) have updated guidance to their members and well as producing a new guide “Beyond Covid-19” for re-opening commercial buildings.  At the time of writing the property markets in Wales and Scotland remain closed.

A day after the government’s plans to re-start England’s housing markets I am aware of a surge in activity and viewings which is unsurprising as it was previously estimated by Zoopla that around 373,000 sales had their plans on hold during lockdown and property portal traffic has seen an increase in traffic by around a fifth.   Adding in rentals – there is thought to be a total circa 450,000 buyers and renters with plans on hold.  Spring is usually a busy time for the housing and mortgage markets.

Announcements also included measures to get the house building sector moving including allowing builders more flexible working hours, such as staggered arrival times, to ease pressure on public transport, allowing publication of planning applications through social media instead of having to rely on posters and leaflets and providing support for smaller developers by allowing them to defer payments to local councils to ease cash flow.  The latter, in relation to the Community Infrastucture Levy, is a minefield though and should definitely be approached with legal advice.  The Planning Inspectorate also announced their intentions to resume site visits with appropriate measures in place.

So, with things moving slowly again I have already had a couple of enquiries from prospective purchasers of properties to check what they can, and cannot, do from a planning perspective.  This is most common with rural and commercial properties where the purchasers are looking to maximise the asset, outbuildings and land.  I can, and do, undertake pre-purchase advice and checks including checking planning history, any restrictions (occupancy conditions, section 106 agreements etc.), current and emerging policy against the client’s aspirations for the property.  I can also flag up where it would be prudent to seek further taxation advice, for example in relation to the reliefs available for agricultural properties for inheritance tax, or business rates and valuation matters taking into account purchase price, required spend and end values.

This has, on a couple occasions in the last few months, resulted in purchasers not proceeding with the property or pulling out of a sale but it has avoided a very costly mistake for some parties.  In some cases, early checking avoided an offer being made which saved part progression of a sale which would have then fell apart at a later date wasting both time and money for both parties.

If you are back looking on the market and have a specific property in mind, and need general advice – email me the property details ( and a list of what you wish to do with it, and I can take care of the rest as part of a quick, fixed fee, process.  Happy property hunting, and stay safe!