It is now three months since all Scottish house builders had to down tools, mothball their sites and either furlough their staff or ask them to work remotely from home.
During that time, the industry has shown itself in a very good light. There have been numerous examples of the absolute best practice being shown. This has ranged from the NHS of the Louisa Jordan Hospital in Glasgow clapping out the construction workers of Robertson Group as they left the completed emergency Covid 19 hospital to numerous examples of house builders giving away their precious PPE equipment to front line staff. Many house builders’ employees have also used their excellent (and very useful) project management skills to coordinate volunteers services in their communities or have undertaken training in critical first aid training in order to assist their co- workers or people in their community.
This effort has been recognised by the First Minister who has praised the construction industry for the very responsible approach that has been taken during a very difficult time.
The industry was able to start site preparations on 29 May. It was then given a huge boost when they were able to bring construction workers back to sites and get back to work albeit with safety measures and/ or with use of PPE by the introduction of Phase 2 of the Scottish Government’s 6 Phase Plan for the construction industry.
Following the publication of Guidance on Moving Home by the Scottish Government today, the Scottish housing market is going to be back in business and as of 29th June all members of the public will be allowed to leave their homes in order to buy and sell property, including new build homes.
How does the new guidance on moving home affect house builders?
Many house builders had reacted to lockdown by showing their new homes virtually. Many purchasers will still start the process in that way and a lot of the upfront work undertaken by sales teams will still need to be carried out by email or by phone calls with customers.
However, house builders can re-open their show homes FROM 29TH JUNE and move forward with confidence as home buyers will then be permitted to visit house builders sales offices or show homes and staff will be permitted to travel to work in order to work with customers.
In order to comply with the new guidance, house builders require to:
1 Promote virtual house viewings, where possible
2 Where viewings in person are required, viewings should be by appointment with one household in the show home or sales office at a time. We understand that house builders with operations in England have been fine tuning their working practices by avoiding having children attend viewings if possible and, if viewers are early, asking them to stay in their cars until they are then called in to view the show home, and encouraging the viewers not to touch items or parts of the show home.
3 House builders should then clean the surfaces of the show home before the next viewing.
4 House builders should work with their lawyers on new contracts and sales to ensure that contracts take account of the risk that Covid-19 can pose to new clients. This includes building in flexibility in case moving in dates need to be moved back due to a client falling ill with Covid-19 or if they require to self isolate.
5 House builders should do what they can if dates need to be altered (for example, in a chain situation) and work with their customers to support anyone with Covid-19 symptoms or self- isolating.
Exciting times ahead
The construction industry has shown that it can adapt to very difficult circumstances. Now is the time for the industry to capitalise on the pent up housing demand which has developed over the months of lockdown by getting back to work safely and successfully.
House builders can capitalise on the appetite for flexible living and working with many flat residents keen to move to a house with a garden and all types of households wishing to have more flexibility in their homes, to enable home working for the future as well as exercising at home. The industry has also received a confidence booster in that the Help to Buy scheme which enables customers to obtain a loan of up to a maximum amount of 15% of the purchase price of a new build home has been extended to March 2022.
This new phase will involve all house builders implementing the Scottish Government’s 6 phase construction plan and the new guidance on moving home. At Blackadders we have lawyers across Scotland with extensive experience in commercial property and residential property law who can assist you with getting back to work and selling your properties and all within the frameworks required.
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