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Coronavirus Kent: Dartford estate agents optimistic about post-lockdown trade as housing market reopens at short notice

An estate agent in Dartford says he is optimistic about the housing market despite the decision to reopen their trade coming as a shock.

It follows the government announcement last night that lockdown restrictions would be lifted for estate agents, removal companies and conveyancers.

Fox Estate Agents, pictured in 2018 are a previous winner at the Dartford Business Awards
Fox Estate Agents, pictured in 2018 are a previous winner at the Dartford Business Awards

This means they will now be able to reopen their shops and even conduct viewings at properties which are now deemed "necessary journeys".

Dartford estate agent Chris Fox of Fox Estates was caught cold by the announcement which he says was "thrust on them".

"I was expecting to reopen in about three weeks time," he said.

"Yesterday morning at 11am I told all my staff we would be opening first week of June."

The property consultant explained there would be three different aspects to the branch's ability to reopen in Brent Lane, Dartford which he now anticipates to be on Monday.

"I can only speak for ourselves," he said. "Obviously there is us as a firm and our staff and wellbeing.

"Then there is the seller's situation and the buyers."

Hand sanitisers would need to be put by the doors of the office, he says as some staff return to work while others continue to conduct affairs from home.

The Minister for Housing Robert Jenwick said today the government would be encouraging businesses to conduct virtual viewings where possible but physical viewings can resume.

This is something Chris says will require a great deal of planning to ensure the safety of both his staff and their clients.

"There is a way around it but everyone has to be cautious," he said.

Estate agents will be encouraged to conduct virtual viewings but may now go along in person if protected
Estate agents will be encouraged to conduct virtual viewings but may now go along in person if protected

"If it's an empty property that is straightforward but if say there are kids involved it becomes more difficult."

He envisages he will have to source PPE including masks and gloves for those conducting viewings and valuations.

But he adds they will need to factor in as a business how many people will actually want viewings carried out in their homes.

"It is a confidence thing where are going to see some people who won't want strangers coming into their house," he said.

Nearly 400,000 sales across the UK were put on hold after the government's lockdown effectively suspended the housing market to control the virus, according to online property company Zoopla.

But Chris remains buoyant about the mood of the market despite the Chancellor's comments forewarning a recession.

Chris Fox from Fox Estates says the decision to reopen the market this week came as a shock
Chris Fox from Fox Estates says the decision to reopen the market this week came as a shock

"We had just the one sale which collapsed and another that wanted to take their property off the market," he said.

"We have 20 people that want to view one house and five or six that want valuations carried out."

He said they are also seeing a rise in people wanting to sell following a marital breakdown.

The former Dartford Business Awards winner also had several probate sales waiting to go through although Chris points out the majority of these are not related to Covid-19.

He has worked in the industry for more than 40 years including during recessions but admits he has never encountered a situation quite like this.

In spite of this he remains confident there is an appetite among buyers and sellers.

"It is a confidence thing where are going to see some people who won't want strangers coming into their house."

Then of course there is the small matter of Brexit which again he believes the business will withstand.

"They say Brexit is a done deal," he said. "My thoughts were once it was nailed down the market rallied and we experienced a mini boom.

"It is too early to say but I think the market will bounce back."

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