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French estate agents fight to keep house viewing in lockdown

A new campaign is calling on authorities to enable main home viewings to continue despite lockdown as ‘having a place to live’ is ‘absolute necessity’

Estate agents in France are fighting to maintain their right to continue operating and showing potential buyers and renters around properties despite the lockdown, as they say renting or buying a home is “a necessity”.

The campaign has been launched by Henry Buzy-Cazaux, president of the estate agent group l’Institut du management des services immobiliers.

He has called on authorities to make property viewing an acceptable reason to leave the house, under two conditions: That the visit must be managed by a professional estate agent, and that main residences viewings only will be allowed, to ensure that the visit is really “necessary” as it concerns someone’s main, not second, home.

He said: “The need to use a proper estate agent isn’t a self-interested demand. It is a guarantee for the authorities. A professional agent is liable and insured, the visit is on record, and professional agents are likely to be complying better than a private individual would be with health rules.”

He added: “Buying or renting somewhere to live is an absolute necessity.”

High-profile estate agents have supported the campaign, including Laurent Vimont, owner of the Century 21 France group; Christine Fumagalli, president of the Orpi group, and Jean-Marc Torrollion, head of Fnaim.

Ms Fumagalli called on Housing Minister Emmanuelle Wargon to consider the suggestion, and said: “Estate agents are central. Our agencies are here to respond to people’s essential need for housing. It is paramount that we can continue actions for renting or buying a property.”

Mr Torrollion said: “We can track and trace our visits...our health protocols have been proven. 10,000 commercial workers are ready to help the public with their moves.”

Danielle Debrac, president of the estate agent union Unis (Union des syndicats de l’immobilier) told newspaper Le Figaro: “At the end of this first 15 days of confinement, agencies should be able to restart their activities in full.”

Mr Buzy-Cazaux concluded: “The property market is an essential part of kick-starting the country’s economy. In the current circumstances, I have real doubts about the success of the eco-friendly renovation plan. If transactions and rental payments stay blocked, the situation could deteriorate dramatically.”

He also reminded authorities that many estate agents are freelancers and therefore cannot access the same funds as many salaried workers, so their financial situation is even more precarious.

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