New safety protocols you must adhere to before you can view a house

The safety document recommends that all viewings and auctions should be conducted online where possible.

The Irish property sector is preparing to kick start the housing market on June 8, after months of stagnation due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Property Regulator and the sector's leading representative organisations have published a 'Joint Sector Protocol for Property Services Providers' safety document.

The safety document recommends that all viewings and auctions should be conducted online where possible.

If an in-person viewing does take place, detailed Covid-19 signage must be displayed and hand sanitation facilities must be widely available. HSE guidelines in relation to social distancing must also be followed.

The new safety document was developed by the Institute of Professional Auctioneers and Valuers, the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland and the Property Services Regulatory Authority.

Houses were still being bought and sold online during the lockdown, with many virtual house viewings taking place. However, the industry is keen to reopen fully when the government gives the go-ahead for phase two of the easing of restrictions.

Previously, experts have warned about the potential for house prices to fall and the knock-on effects this could have on the Irish economy.

Prof Kieran McQuinn of the Economic and Social Research Institute has said that housing transactions will be impacted negatively by the pandemic and the effects could be long-lasting, particularly in relation to the supply of new homes due to the closure of building sites.

However, the property sector hopes that the new safety document will enable valuers and property service providers to conduct auctions, sales, lettings and valuations for both residential and commercial properties in a safe manner.

Included in the range of measures is a requirement that only two people from the same viewing party will be allowed to view the property at any one time and they must be over 16.

Doors leading into small rooms, like utility rooms or storage rooms, will be removed. Removal and capping of internal door handles to minimise contact points is another procedure suggested.

The document also recommends that viewings should be pre-booked, and a thorough cleaning process must take place.

If the dwelling or commercial property is not a new build, property services professionals must confirm whether the clients have returned from travel abroad or have had symptoms of Covid-19 over the previous 14 days. If so, the property service cannot be provided for a minimum of 14 days.

Property details will be sent by email, so paper brochures will become a thing of the past.

Property agencies must also provide safety training for all of their employees.

The document also states that non-compliance with the new guidelines "by any party" must result in the cessation of the property service, and where the party concerned fails to further co-operate, An Garda Síochána "should be engaged."

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