THE idea of walking into somebody else’s house during the coronavirus pandemic seems unthinkable.

But as part of the Government’s easing of lockdown restrictions, estate agents are now permitted to carry out house viewings.

The move was geared towards keeping the property market ticking over, while enabling people to progress their plans to move home.

Hexham estate agent Foster Maddison is gradually resuming its services after a complete shutdown at the beginning of April, when all staff were placed on the Government's furlough scheme.

And the firm’s Neil Foster has insisted that the safety of all involved with transactions was a top priority.

“When the Government announced that socially distanced viewings were permitted, we spent a lot of time studying the guidance,” he said.

“But we’ve changed the way we work to keep the number of viewings to an absolute minimum.”

Government guidelines state that windows and doors of properties must be open prior to a visit, to avoid contact with door handles.

This includes the doors of cupboards which are to be viewed, while all visits are restricted to a maximum of 15 minutes.

Mr Foster added: “Our approach has been to make video tours of homes, and show these to genuinely interested parties only.

“This will eliminate some people, thus restricting actual visits to those who have serious interest in the property.

“This is a very serious issue with the most important thing being safety. Everybody has to be on board with that.

“There are restrictions on the number of people who can attend, while hand washing and sanitising is absolutely essential, as well as social distancing.

“The buying, selling and renting can be discussed afterwards, either over the phone, or in the garden of the property while practising social distancing.”

Mr Foster said there was a backlog of transactions waiting to be completed.

He added: “The backlog was inevitable. We were in complete shutdown for eight weeks.

“On the rental side. there has been some urgency because people have stalled in the process of moving.”

Mr Foster stressed that in some cases, house viewings were simply not possible. He said they did not happen in properties were the occupants were shielding or self isolating, and in those cases, transactions would be put on hold. “We all have to be patient and understanding during this time of crisis,” he added.