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Coronavirus: London estate agent Foxtons to resume viewings with social distancing

Edmund Heaphy
Finance and news reporter
London-based estate agent Foxtons will resume physical viewings from June. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

London-focused estate agent Foxtons (FOXT.L) said on Tuesday that physical viewings of available properties would resume from 1 June with a “tightly controlled” social distancing protocol.

The firm, which has been closed since the UK-wide coronavirus lockdown went into effect, also said that it hoped to reopen all of its branches by the same date.

Customers will firstly be encouraged to view properties virtually, Foxtons said, noting that it will impose restrictions on the number of people who can attend physical viewings.

Those doing so will have to confirm in advance that they have not been infected by COVID-19 and that they are not displaying symptoms.

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Foxtons agents will be using personal protective equipment (PPE), including hand sanitiser, face coverings, and gloves.

“Following the recent government announcement on the reopening of the housing market, the company plans to start re-opening its branches over the course of this week,” Foxtons said in a statement.

The firm said that it had undertaken “comprehensive risk assessments” of all of its branches, its head office, and consulted with employee representatives.

“Each of our workplaces has now been modified to be in line with recent guidance issued by both the government and Propertymark, the estate agency industry body,” it said.

In addition to social distancing procedures and enhanced hygiene measures, all employees will undergo mandatory COVID-19 training such that they can “engage appropriately” with customers.

In April, after maxing out its existing credit lines, Foxtons said it would sell a stake of around 20% in the business, hoping to raise £22m ($27m) to bolster its balance sheet during the crisis.

The company sent 1,100 of its workers home, using the UK government’s wage-subsidy scheme to furlough some 750 workers.

The company said on Tuesday (26 May) that, following the fundraise, its net cash balance, excluding lease liabilities, was £37.1m in April.

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The 750 furloughed workers will be brought back to work on a gradual basis from 1 June, while a number of employees will continue to work from home, Foxtons noted.

Noting that there was still “significant uncertainty” about the length of the crisis and how it would affect the London property market, Foxtons said it was “too early” to predict the full impact of the pandemic on its full-year results.

Commissions earned in the eight weeks between 23 March and 15 May were down 44% compared to the same period in 2019.

Lettings commissions fell 40%, while sales commissions declined by 61%. Mortgage broking revenues were down 2%.