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Michael Moore’s Thoughts On The Latest Covid-19 Update

13th November 2020

How is the Leeds property market and Moores reacting to the second Covid-19 Lockdown? Director Michael Moore shares his thoughts…

It was excellent news to hear that a Covid-19 vaccine may be on the horizon. Is this the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’? I really do hope so.

The Prime Minister and Jonathan Van Tam were cautious in their address to the nation about how this news from Pfizer BioNTech should be interpreted. Clearly trying to ensure we don’t jump to any conclusions and throw our masks in the bin in jubilation. I thought their explanation of the next stages for approval of the vaccine was clear and didn’t think anyone could misinterpret what was being said.  Yet, on Tuesday I had a text from our local medical surgery urging people not to contact them about booking their vaccine appointment! Perhaps the PM’s cautious tone was not dower enough?

What Are We Doing At Moores?

When, as many people feared, the R number rose, hospitalisations multiplied and Lockdown 2 was announced, we performed a new Risk Assessment. Our Risk Assessment for Lockdown 1 was determined, despite not knowing  anyone who had been infected. Those suffering were seen on the TV or in the press, but nothing appeared to be happening on our doorstep. As we now knew personally of Covid victims, a new Risk Assessment was needed. We employed the help of national and local data, as well as data from our own customers and contacts.

Occupied HMO’s (Houses in Multiple Occupation – 3 or more adult persons sharing a property) carried a significant risk for both valuations and viewings, where agency staff and viewers are generally in the property for 30 minutes to one hour. We also concluded that homes occupied by families carried a significant high risk for valuations and listings (average time spent in a property is around 50 minutes) and occupied family properties were high risk on viewings, unless the occupants vacated (an average viewing is around 15 minutes where the buyer/tenant has watched one of our Video Tours).

At Moores, we have always taken the view that the risk is not just to our staff, but also to our customers. On a typical day our negotiators can undertake 7 or 8 viewings. and I can value up to 5 properties, possibly all occupied. We take all the precautions specified by Government, but for some properties we believe the risk is still too high. Just because you can drive at 70 mph on a road doesn’t mean you have to!

As a consequence, we have suspended all valuations of occupied properties until the 2nd December. We will continue to attend vacant properties for valuation purposes. Viewings will be limited, ensuring we can clean the properties effectively, and only show a property with good ventilation, where the occupants have left the premises. On HMO’s that carry a higher risk, should one of the occupants fail to vacate, or return early midway through a viewing, no viewings will be undertaken.

Government has instructed non-essential businesses to close. Personally, I don’t think the valuation of a property or even a viewing is ‘essential’ at this time. The property will still be there on the 2nd of December. Someone is going to raise the issue of the fast appraoching Stamp Duty Holiday deadline on 31st March. I accept our risk-averse approach will not help, and I would call on Government to extend the ‘holiday’ by at least a month, to make up for the ‘lost’ month of November. Better still I would like to see the ‘holiday’ extended even further, much like the Furlough Scheme. That should help keep some buoyancy in the economy until sufficient vaccines have been distributed. Allowing our friends in the hospitality and travel industries to get back on their feet and tax revenues can once again be generated.

Just because estate agents have been told they don’t have to close, does not mean they should operate as normal. The safety of their staff and the public they serve should always come first.

You can learn more about the Leeds lockdown rules on the Leeds council website: www.leeds.gov.uk/coronavirus.

Learn more about Michael Moores and his 30+ years of estate agency experience here.

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