VICTORIA BISCHOFF: We need a plan to lift the property market safely out of lockdown
Who would want to be a home buyer or seller at this time?
Hundreds of thousands of families have been stuck in limbo since the property market was all but frozen at the end of March.
Only those who stood to lose vast sums of money if they reneged on their contracts, and those moving into empty properties, have been allowed to push ahead. But now the buyers and sellers forced to put their plans on ice want answers.
Many have growing families and desperately need more space, some are relocating for work, or are first-time buyers whose extra rent bills are eating into their deposit.
Lockdown delay: The housing market has been all but frozen since buyers and sellers were ordered to postpone completion dates at the end of March
No doubt they were bitterly disappointed not to hear even a whisper of how we might get the housing market started in the Government’s lockdown exit plan announced on Monday.
The good news is that ministers are finally waking up to the fact that they must take action. And, as we report in the Mail today, with some careful social distancing we could easily get people moving again — even if it means wearing a mask and gloves to view a house.
Some estate agents have been trying to keep the market alive by offering virtual viewings. But most of us wouldn’t even think about purchasing a property without seeing it in person.
Crucially, we need physical valuations to resume in order to clear a vast backlog of mortgage applications. And removal firms must be confident that they can get people from A to B safely.
In March, banks pledged to extend mortgage offers for at least three months. Perhaps more should be following in the footsteps of Barclays and TSB and extending offers for six months.
Given the importance of the £7 trillion housing market to the UK economy, keeping it alive must be a priority.
If you are a buyer or seller who is stuck in limbo, please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and share your story.
As Britain’s biggest building society, Nationwide is expected to set a good example — not betray loyal customers by slashing savings rates to as little as 0.01 per cent. Its cuts go far beyond the Bank of England’s reductions in March.
Even worse, in its letters setting out the changes it conveniently failed to mention more generous accounts open to new customers.
Our reader Gordon Turnbull blasted its actions as ‘deplorable’. He tells us: ‘I have been a customer for 20 years.
As a pensioner, I need all the help going when it comes to savings. I have voted with my feet and gone elsewhere.’
And it’s clear he’s not the only one, if the complaints from furious customers facing Isa transfer delays are anything to go by.
Chief executive Joe Garner may have accepted a temporary 20 pc cut to his salary, but given that his pay and perks could still tot up to around £1 million a year, is it too much to ask that he remembers those clinging to the lowest branches of the financial tree?
With foreign holidays seemingly off-limits for months, why aren’t insurers offering even a partial refund to customers who bought policies they now can’t use?
These can be quite cheap, but for those with medical conditions, annual policies may cost hundreds of pounds. Surely it can’t be right that insurers are allowed to cling on to this cash when they know you won’t be claiming for costly overseas accidents?
Save our cash
Last week we exposed how cash could end up a victim of the virus, with many stores now refusing to accept it over hygiene fears.
Money Mail reader Mary Hetherington says: ‘Has anybody considered that the best way of dealing with cash in the crisis is to wash it? New plastic notes can also be washed, just don’t iron them!’
If this sounds like too much effort, don’t fret. Experts say that washing your hands carefully after handling cash should be precaution enough.
Cash is still a vital lifeline for thousands of people. They must not be abandoned.