Thankfully, the weeks are rolling around fairly quickly as another week of winter lockdown is beginning to takes its toll. For a short few hours each day I can work in my office at home without the lights on. Come mid-afternoon I begin to feel like a troglodyte, peering through the ever-diminishing daylight at my keyboard, eventually realising I can’t actually see the unlit keys!

One of our maintenance team has been struck down with Covid. He’s not well but not hospitalised, thank goodness. Our thoughts go out to him, and his family, for a quick and full recovery. Another of our team was tested but thankfully the outcome was negative. These events serve to remind us yet again how easy it can be to contract the virus (variant or otherwise) and how careful we need to be, not only for ourselves, but for our families and customers. I am still bewildered at the Government allowing the housing market to remain open, allowing agents their own discretion over viewings and valuations.

I know how easy it is to catch a disease from visiting different homes. Back in 1988 I was valuing a house in Headingley and enquired why the owner’s little girl was lying on the sofa under a blanket, looking very sorry for herself. The young girl’s mother said her daughter had chicken pox. I said I was sorry to hear that, and never gave it a second thought. I continued in my quest to measure up and present my assessment of value, in the hope of securing a new listing. Within the week I had chicken pox!

Chicken pox in children can be quite a mild disease. For others it can make them poorly but they soon recover. Well, I can assure everyone that chicken pox in adults is a completely different story! I have never been as poorly as I was for that following fortnight. I ached from head to toe, and had itchy spots where I didn’t think spots could even grow! You can’t put calamine lotion under your eyelids, for example. Apparently, I had never had chicken pox as a child. It never occurred to me how serious an infection I could contract from a property visit.

I was later told the child’s mother would have probably found out it was highly infectious to adults with no immunity, but never gave it a second thought before my visit, preoccupied perhaps by her eagerness to arrange her house move. I was off work for three weeks and still have scars as a consequence.

Chicken pox is an airborne virus, spread by vapour and droplets from breathing. I only had to be in the same room as the child for a relatively short period of time, sufficient for me to inhale some of the airborne droplets. The same I presume can happen with Coronavirus – the longer we are in the presence of another person carrying the virus, the greater the risk of infection. That is why we are restricting our valuation service to vacant/unoccupied properties for the time being. We know the atmosphere is Covid-free when no one has been in the property for some time.

Property Viewings In Lockdown

Viewings on empty properties undoubtedly carry an increased risk if we wander around the property with the viewer. But if we follow the Government guidelines and simply open the door and wait outside whilst the viewers look round, everyone is relatively safe. I am still hearing about agents showing properties room-by-room to prospective buyers. This cannot be safe, can it?

We consider viewings on occupied properties unsafe for our team, the viewers and the occupiers. Any one of us could be asymptomatic and spread the virus to the others. The wearing of masks reduces risk of viral transfer through breathing, but what about surfaces such as door handles and banister rails? Can the agent guarantee everyone will keep their masks on throughout the visit? We’ve had numerous instances where viewers enter vacant properties with masks on, only to find they exit the house with the mask either beneath their nose because their glasses are steaming up, or under their chin simply because it’s hard to breath and talk with a mask on. How doctors and nurses manage to do whole shifts with full PPE is beyond me!

The vaccination programme appears to be going well, subject to the supply continuing. But I am concerned that once people have the vaccination, they will go about daily life without PPE or social distancing. They will feel confident they cannot, or are unlikely, to catch and be ill from the virus. But are they carrying and spreading it? We still have a lot to learn before we can become complacent.

What Does Lockdown Mean For Estate Agents?

Estate agents, like surveyors, lawyers and house removal teams, have been given the green light to continue working. That does not mean we have to operate as if the virus does not exist. Like everyone, we are concerned about maintaining our income, but some things are more important. We have an obligation to help people with their property moves, but we also have a moral duty to protect people. I appreciate we have been trading as estate agents for many years and are well established and perhaps financially do not feel the pain many others are feeling. But I recognise how hard it is for some and how vulnerable many are currently feeling.

I implore everyone to be considerate and careful when attending viewings or simply meeting anyone outside their own households. It is easy to pick up a virus, and you never know how serious it may turn out to be.

Stay safe.

– A Newsletter Editorial by Director Michael Moore FNAEA, MARLA.