The Conveyancing Association (CA), the leading trade body for the conveyancing industry, has urged the Welsh Government to go ‘further’ and ‘faster’ in opening up its housing market, suggesting that it now needs to follow the same approach and protocols which have been in place in the English market since mid-May.
Last Friday, the Welsh Government announced a partial reopening of the housing market in Wales from the 22nd June meaning:
- All house moves can go ahead where the residential property has been unoccupied i.e. vacant for at least 72 hours.
- House moves can take place where a sale has been agreed but not yet completed.
- The marketing and viewing of unoccupied residential property can take place.
- Valuations and inspections of occupied residential property are allowed but should be done so safely and in line with the Welsh Government’s guidance on working in someone’s home.
However, the CA believes this does not go far enough, as the Welsh Government has specifically said house moves where the residential property is occupied are still not able to go ahead. Estate agents are able to market these properties but are only allowed to carry out virtual viewings.
The Welsh Government said a further review of the situation will take place in three weeks, which the CA argues would mean the Welsh property market was a full two months behind England and mean a significant and ongoing impact on Welsh property businesses, particularly conveyancing firms and estate agents only active in Wales.
The CA says, that with the English market now functioning well, and with protocols and Guidance in place to ensure the safety of all property market participants including those in occupied properties, there is no reason why the Welsh Government cannot follow suit.
Recent figures from TwentyCi, the homebuying marketing and behaviour agency, for the English property market show levels of new instructions and properties sold subject to contract (SSTC) both well in advance of 2019 norms. In the third week of June, both were up by 15% on 2019 with 36,793 new property listings and 29,383 SSTC cases.
By contrast, the Welsh housing market is running at far below its 2019 norm. Again, TwentyCi data reveals that, for the first three weeks of June, new instructions of 2,387 meant they were 40% down on the same period in 2019, while SSTC were 51% down at 1,337.
Lloyd Davies, Operations Director of the Conveyancing Association, commented:
“The English housing market has now benefited from having been open for over six weeks longer than its Welsh counterpart, and it seems clear that for every day the Welsh Government takes its current piecemeal approach, the Welsh property market, all stakeholders, consumers and the entire Welsh economy will continue to suffer.
“We understand why the Welsh Government is adopting a cautious approach to the COVID-19 pandemic but there are incredibly tight protocols in place for English properties which keep all parties as safe as possible, and there is a real danger by not adopting these, and going further and faster than its current approach, that the impact on Welsh housing market stakeholders will be even more devastating.
“In an environment where people are able to shop freely – albeit with social distancing in place – it seems odd that the housing market cannot be opened up beyond an ability to view and sell unoccupied properties.
“The recent Guidance for consumers, property professionals and conveyancing firms, fully supported by the CA, was drafted to ensure that this doesn’t need to be the case and, as the English market’s experience shows us, the positive impact has been significant.
“At present, and even with this partial reopening, we are well behind the English market, and with any new transactions likely to take 16 weeks to complete, the impact on the Welsh economy to be able to restart effectively will be damaged severely. Plus, the ability to complete Welsh transactions is going to be difficult because many Welsh conveyancing firms are still not functioning effectively because of lockdown.
“In this situation, a softly-softly approach is not sufficient and we would urge the Welsh Government to learn the lessons of what is happening over the border, the benefits it can bring, and to implement a similar approach before the damage becomes even greater.”