With the publication of the Scottish Government’s COVID-19 phased route map out of lockdown and estate agency activity resuming South of the border in England, many sellers and buyers are wondering when house moves can safely resume again more fully Scotland.
Since lockdown, we have released regular content on the East Central Scotland property market. From the get-go, we have advised how pro-active EPPG firms, sellers and buyers were adapting to the ever-changing landscape brought about by COVID-19. We have found new ways of assisting clients in this strange new world and do believe that virtual elements, such as virtual tours and viewings are here to stay. We do not believe this is just out of necessity to ensure social distancing is maintained but we believe that this is an extremely helpful and useful marketing feature for both sellers and buyers alike. We also recognised the power of social media as a marketing tool moving forward and have been releasing engaging content on various platforms for sellers and buyers.
In this article, we answer FAQs we have been receiving lately and provide our thoughts on the most sensible way forward that adheres to health and safety, and social distancing whilst stimulating the property market.
When will the Scottish property market re-open again fully?
Guidance is expected very soon on the safe re-opening of the Scottish property market.
In the route map out of lockdown, phase 2 is due to be reviewed on Thursday 18th June. In phase 2, the Scottish government advise that they “anticipate a relaxation of restrictions on housing moves” and the industry has been busy preparing for this. However, it should be noted that things won’t simply go back to how they were prior to the pandemic and social distancing must be maintained as much as possible with health and safety at the forefront. That said, there are several solutions in place to enable the market to re-open fully.
When can I physically view properties again in Scotland?
Whilst it is anticipated we will be able to permit some physical viewings in phase 2, there will be a new emphasis on virtually viewing the property first. This is the case in England, and we expect the Scottish guidance to follow a similar route.
Open viewings are long gone (for now) to minimise social interaction and only serious buyers will be permitted to view properties with the relevant safeguards in place.
Serious buyers are considered to be those that have viewed virtually in the first instance, have a mortgage agreement in principle and sufficient sources of funds to cover the purchase and those that have Noted Interest. Do not be surprised if Solicitor Estate Agents pre-qualify you much more than before. This is not designed to be obstructive or intrusive but selling agents of course have a duty of care to sellers and buyers alike, and we must ensure we are operating as safely as possible in the new immediate normal.
Noting interest is highly recommended in today’s fast moving and ever evolving market if you are interested in a particular property. It does not oblige you to proceed to submit an Offer but should ensure you are kept up to date e.g. if the property goes to a closing date. Note that noting interest does not oblige the sellers to give you a chance of Offering or to go to a Closing Date. Sometimes the Sellers receive “an Offer they can’t refuse” and they are at liberty to accept this and disregard any notes of interest, although this is unusual.
EPPG firms do not charge for Noting Interest or unsuccessful Offers and we are on hand to assist buyers navigate this unusual but still highly competitive market.
Buyers must also bear in mind that some sellers are vulnerable e.g. due to age or health condition and in these circumstances, it should be the case that only one physical viewing will be permitted after an Offer has been accepted on the basis of one physical viewing.
Can Valuers attend my property in person soon?
In the first instance, it is safest and most sensible to organise a desktop and/or virtual valuation and appraisal.
We know that in the past, it was common to invite around 3 Solicitor Estate Agents to your property to obtain a valuation, advice on marketing and to settle on which agent you would like to sell your home, usually on the same day and for up to an hour per appointment.
In the age of social distancing, this is certainly not recommended nor is it a necessity, and you would be best advised to contact Solicitor Estate Agents first by email or telephone.
There is a lot that can be sorted by email, telephone call or video to start with and most clients are more comfortable with this initially at this moment in time.
This would mean that moving forward you would only have the one valuer visit, with the firm you would like to work with, as opposed to multiple.
Moving forward, if you would like a Valuer to attend – or it is necessary as you have instructed an EPPG firm to move ahead with the sale – they will attend with the relevant PPE including face coverings, gloves and face shields.
Please ensure you clean all surfaces and door handles with standard cleaning products prior to and after the visit, open all the doors in the property and whilst the valuation takes place wait outside the property. The Valuer will not touch any surfaces in the property.
Following the visit, the Valuer will be happy to answer any questions you may have outside at a 2m distance or with a follow up call to minimise interaction within the property.
Of course, please advise us as soon as you become aware if anyone in the household due to be marketed for sale suffers from any COVID-19 symptoms or is obliged to self-isolate for whatever reason.
When can surveyors and photographers attend to carry out the Home Report and take photographs, videos/360 tours, floor plans etc?
Once you have instructed an agent, and the agent’s Valuer has attended to carry out the appraisal safely (if requested), the next visits will be from a surveyor for the Home Report and the photographer to carry out the photography, any video/360 tours and the floor plan.
These are essential elements required by law or for marketing and you need these visits to enable your property to be marketed in Scotland.
Again, they will work in the same way as the Valuer in that they will have the relevant PPE and will suggest that you wait outside the property whilst the visits take place.
To comply with safety considerations, these visits cannot happen at the same time and your agent will advise you how they will be scheduled.
EPPG firms have already pre-booked surveyor and photographer visits for all clients waiting to go on the market as Phase 2 is expected to be announced next Thursday 18th June 2020.
Again, please advise us, the surveyor or photographer as soon as you become aware if anyone in the household due to be marketed for sale suffers from any COVID-19 symptoms or has to self-isolate for whatever reason.
For the photography, the property must be photo-shoot ready as photographers will not stage or move personal belongings. The surveyor will advise you in advance of your home report survey what is required as they will need all windows, attic latches, electrical boxes etc to be open at the time of the visit.
Will all Solicitor Estate Agents offices re-open soon?
The Scottish Government roadmap recommends remote working wherever possible as we transition out of lockdown. This is because social distancing must be maintained.
Moving forward, we will continue to encourage remote working where possible to protect the health of our staff and the public.
EPPG are firms that can offer flexible and remote working because our systems work well at home e.g. telephone, banking, case management systems. In addition, new COVID-19 legislation has introduced new measures that permits us to witness documents and Deeds by video call.
Consultations will always be required to take place via email, telephone call or video calling initially.
The Coronavirus (Scotland) (No.2) Act 2020 extended the services that Solicitors can deliver remotely, and, in most circumstances, Deeds can be notarised and witnessed via video link.
If a meeting in person is necessary, our staff will take extra precautions in line with government regulations – from washing and sanitising hands regularly, walking, cycling or driving their own car to the office, regularly sanitising frequently used equipment and wearing PPE where necessary.
Where it is necessary for an office to open to a member of the public, it will be on a strict appointment only service where social distancing will be maintained, hands sanitised or washed on arrival and on departure, and the use of protective equipment such as face coverings and gloves. Clients must agree to the above as health and safety is paramount.
What are your top tips for choosing a Solicitor Estate Agent in the future?
It is important to choose a Solicitor Estate Agent that is pro-active and has been at the forefront of activity throughout lockdown like EPPG. Here are our top tips to consider when choosing a Solicitor Estate Agent to help you sell/and or buy in the future.
- Have they sold similar properties in the surrounding area and if so, what were the sale prices (compared to Home Report Value)?
- Did any recent sales go to competitive closing dates?
- Did they handle any closing dates during lockdown?
- Has the Solicitor you are thinking of using been working throughout lockdown, and therefore has a deep understanding of current market dynamics?
- Is their valuation and appraisal research detailed and organised? Is there any detailed evidence of their research?
- Do they have good client reviews on the likes of Google and Facebook?
- Has the agent you are considering using been pro-active during lockdown? Is their website up to date? Have they been writing blogs and helping clients throughout? Have they developed the procedure, software and skills to properly present your property to a changed marketing environment?
Whether selling and/or buying, a Solicitor Estate Agent is vital to co-ordinate all elements of your transaction. It is important to be able to talk to your Solicitor and with market activity picking up you do need an active Solicitor who is available to discuss your circumstances and develop a strategy when you need it, not a faceless online conveyancer.
Will house prices in Edinburgh and the Lothians drop?
There is certainly no evidence at the moment of any decreases in property prices in Edinburgh and the Lothians.
Edinburgh and the Lothians is a desirable place to live or invest in and it has repeatedly shown how it is a dynamic and resilient market with lots of activity even despite lockdown and this has only increased in recent weeks – remarkable considering the property market isn’t even opened fully in Scotland yet!
Valuations are all based on evidence and past sales for similar properties nearby, there is absolutely no evidence so far to suggest an overall decrease in general property prices locally. Currently, values are being based on a lot of data pre-lockdown however during lockdown hundreds of Offers have been received and numerous successful closing dates have taken place.
All EPPG firms have had successful closing dates in the past few weeks indicating activity in the market is still hot.
Deans Solicitors and Estate Agents had a closing date in Colinton, Edinburgh earlier this week. It had a home report value of £510,000 and achieved 7 Offers all above Home Report valuation. Neilsons Solicitors and Estate Agents secured the property for their purchase client in this competitive scenario and the property is now under offer.
Some more examples of competitive closing dates recently set by Deans:
- Lewis Terrace, 18 Notes of Interest and 12 Offers received.
- Johns Place, 8 Notes of Interest and 6 Offers received.
Neilsons Solicitors and Estate Agents have a closing date set for today at Saughtonhall Gardens, Edinburgh which has a Home Report value of £340,000 and currently has 13 Notes of Interest!
In addition, Neilsons recently had a closing date at Parkhead Drive, Edinburgh. The property had a Home Report valuation £150,000 and achieved 6 Notes of Interest and 5 offers at closing.
VMH Solicitors had two closing dates last week and have just set one for Mountcastle Crescent, Edinburgh which has been on the market just under two weeks with 6 notes of interest already.
More examples from VMH:
- Clermiston Gardens, Edinburgh. 6 Offers received.
- Caledonian Crescent, Edinburgh. 9 Offers received.
As you can see, discussion of house price decreases in Edinburgh and Lothians would be entirely inaccurate at this moment in time due to the demand for suitable properties in the area, serious interest in the properties on the market (even despite lockdown) and the competitive nature of the market which is reigning supreme.
What should I do next?
For sellers, now is a good time to get ready for the market, due to the underlying and pent up demand. Contact us for advice on the way forward and how we can maximise your marketing and sale price safely.
For buyers, it was the hottest market in Edinburgh and the Lothians prior to lockdown and the competitive nature of the market has not waned. Prudent buyers should speak to a Solicitor, obtain mortgage advice and do thorough research. It is really important that you get your ducks in a row so that if you are interested in a property, you are in a strong position and can be considered a serious buyer by the selling agent.