Innovative lettings agent My Property Box will continue to offer its virtual viewings service, despite the government’s decision to open up the property market.

From today (Wednesday, 13 May) renters and buyers can move home and view properties in person if they observe social distancing measures.

The easing of restrictions has been welcomed by My Property Box founder and managing director Ben Quaintrell, who said: “There are many people waiting to move into a new home whose plans were stalled by lockdown. This will allow them to move safely and get on with their lives.”

The Darlington-based company had already brought forward plans during lockdown to launch an online viewings service after it was contacted by key workers needing to rent homes – as several companies in the area, including Amazon, continued recruiting staff to undertake essential services.

There was also additional demand from key workers, often in public-facing roles, wishing to self-isolate by living apart from their family to prevent any risk of infection.

My Property Box already allows both landlords and tenants to access a range of services online, via an app or over the telephone. Given its digital background, the company – which lets properties across the North East and North Yorkshire – took the decision to allow its staff to work from home almost a week before lockdown was imposed, giving it time to work on its virtual viewings service.

It is currently making preparations to re-open its office, when appropriate.

Ben said: “We had already built up a large stock of video property tours as we were looking to introduce virtual viewings as an added service.

“Other letting agents and estate agents had stopped carrying out physical viewings and with a rising demand for rental properties from key workers, we decided to introduce it straight away.”

The virtual viewing allows the whole process to be completed without human contact, with tenants able to access, upload and sign all documents online.

Even the traditional key exchange is contactless – with keys posted out, left in a key safe at the property or collected from a safe space within the company’s Grange Road headquarters.

It is also launching a similar video property appraisal service for those landlords wishing to take up  the option.

Ben added: “The easing of restrictions on physical viewings is to be welcomed but we will continue our virtual service for those who wish to use it as part of the ‘new normal’.”

He predicts that the rental sector will recover quickly once the coronavirus restrictions are lifted, although he warned that there will be casualties, especially among estate agents.

“There is always a demand for rented property and even though the numbers of residential lettings have fallen, My Property Box has continued to operate and prosper based on its residual income.

“As a business we are able to ride this out and I believe the rental property industry will bounce back quickly, with opportunities available for those wishing to invest in the buy-to-let market.”