Scottish government details plans for easing lockdown
The Scottish government has published its plans for the easing of lockdown restrictions, including the move towards reopening the housing market.
It has set out the five key phases of transition, with movement into the first phase set to occur following the 28 May end-of-cycle review of COVID-19 regulations.
The following review cycle will conclude on 18 June.
During the first phase, remote working will remain the default position for those who can, but outdoor workplaces will resume, provided social distancing measures are in place.
At this stage, the Scottish government plans for the construction sector to implement the first two phases in its restart plan, in preparation for the safe reopening of the housing market.
To progress to this phase, the government has said that the R number must have been below 1 for at least three weeks and the number of infectious cases must be starting to decline.
To progress onto the second phase, the R number must have remained consistently below 1, and the number of infectious cases shown a sustained decline.
The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) six criteria for easing restrictions will also have to be met.
During the second phase, indoor non-office based workplaces will be able to resume, and the construction industry will move to the later stages of its sectoral restart plan.
At this stage, the Scottish government anticipates a relaxation of restrictions on housing moves.
Indoor office workplaces, including contact centres, will not be able to open until the third phase of the government’s plan, and remote working will remain the default position for those who can.
Edwina de Klee, partner at the Edinburgh-based buying agents Garrington Property Finders, said: “A week after England’s estate agents reopened for business, the Scottish government has made clear it won’t fire the starting gun for Scotland’s property industry for another four weeks.
“Clearly this will be a source of frustration for Scotland’s property sector.
“When they do eventually lift the shutters, Scottish estate agents will face two key questions – how will socially distant viewings work, and what kind of property market will they find?
“The experience of agents south of the border will help answer the first one.
“Would-be buyers in Scotland are likely to be vetted carefully and offered virtual, online viewings of a property before being invited to view it in person.
“The impact of the pandemic on prices, and people’s willingness to move, is harder to predict.
“For now, the lockdown has cryogenically frozen much of Scotland’s property sector, but there are signs that many prospective buyers have been using their confinement to window shop.
“Few things are more likely to make people want to move than being cooped up in the same four walls for weeks on end, and property portals have seen traffic increase by up to a fifth.
“Not all of this buyer interest can be dismissed as mere lockdown escapism.
“The huge economic shock delivered by the COVID crisis could trigger big price reductions, and this is likely to pique the interest of strategic buyers who sense there are bargains to be had in Scotland.
“While it will be a buyers’ market in many places, the supply of homes for sale is likely be constrained at first and this could prop up prices.
“Areas with the most resilient jobs markets should see values hold up better, but elsewhere sellers could be forced into a painfully sharp reality check.”