Here we go again... the government has launched yet another consultation on the process of buying and selling a home, this time with the aim of making it “cheaper, faster and less stressful”. These are noble aims but I can’t help feeling we’ve been down this road many times before.
Last time we ended up with Home Improvement Packs (HIPs), introduced in 2007 in England and Wales, and which meant homes could only be sold with a set of documents including an EPC, guarantees, title documents etc.
The scheme could work; Scotland made a success of its similar Home Reports, which have been in operation since 2008 and mean you can view a property and information about its condition online. But in England and Wales HIPs became a political football and were scrapped just three years after their launched.
What will this latest consultation achieve? It will probably reveal what many of us already know; that the current system works if you know how to use it.
The government has already examined buying and selling processes in other countries and sought the views of 2,000 people who have bought and sold in the past two years; it is now looking for views from professionals, including estate agents, solicitors, surveyors and mortgage lenders, as well as further comments from the public.
Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said: “We want to help everyone have a good quality home they can afford, and improving the process of buying and selling is part of delivering that. Buying a home is one of life’s largest investments, so if it goes wrong it can be costly. That’s why we’re determined to take action to make the process cheaper, faster and less stressful. This can help save people money and time so they can focus on what matters – finding their dream home. I want to hear from the industry on what more we can do to tackle this issue.”
The consultation is wide-ranging, covering estate agent training, digital developments, education of buyers and sellers, buying new builds, leasehold properties and more. Key topics include:
The government say they have no plans to reintroduce HIPs – but want to know if property information, including leasehold information if applicable, should be provided before a home is marketed.
How can the process be sped up to reduce the number of transactions falling through?
How can digital technology be used to ease the buying and selling process, and what are the benefits of online conveyancing?
Building trust between buyers and sellers
The government is seeking views on the routine use of reservation and lock-in agreements to prevent gazumping, and how buyers and sellers could disclose more information about their intentions.
We already have innovations such as View My Chain helping to make the conveyancing and moving process more transparent, and hopefully this will become more widely used, especially now consumers can access the information even if their estate agent is not signed up to the tracking tool.
I believe the key to making any property transaction run smoothly is education, which is where sites such as Propertychecklists.co.uk can help. Choosing the right businesses to work with, getting all the paperwork in order and, crucially, not going on holiday during the process will all help people to oil the wheels of their property sale or purchase.
People also need to accept that property transactions are often triggered by a major life change, such as divorce, death, new job or debt, so buyers and sellers are already stressed and not necessarily in the best frame of mind.