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Government intervention needed on property transaction times – claim

Property professionals have called for the Government to allocate its promised £3m towards improving the home buying and selling process to intervention on how long sales should take.

Data firm Landmark Information Group hosted a roundtable at Portcullis House, Westminster on Tuesday, chaired by Natalie Elphicke MP, a member of the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee.

Industry leaders including representatives from HSBC, Rightmove, First Title, Simplify, L&C Mortgages, Mortgage Advice Bureau, Movera (O’Neill Patient Solicitors LLP), Propertymark, Yopa, TwentyCI, View My Chain, Property Academy and Sort Group addressed the vital need for change and how it might be best tackled.  

There was consensus for greater cross-industry collaboration to streamline the home buying and selling process.

Solutions included renewed calls for government intervention, such as a new national ambition for focusing on how long the home buying and selling process should take in different circumstances, as well as the reduction of regulatory red-tape.  

Also in attendance, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities team supported calls for better use of upfront information.  

It referenced that the department is investing £3 million in proptech pilots and open data funds to reduce the siloed information and uncertain processes, which cause major inefficiencies and delays to the homebuying and selling process.  

Simon Brown, chief executive of Landmark Information Grou, said: “The discussion outlined the need for greater collaboration between industry and Government if we are to transform and unlock the full potential of the property market. Not only would reform enable more people to get on the property ladder, but it would also crucially be a huge boost for the economy. 

“From our data, we can see that despite recent improvements, transaction times have increased significantly over the years, indicating systemic challenges preventing the market from moving at pace. We need a strategy that sets new standards for modernisation and digitsation to accelerate the market.” 

Elphicke added: “Buying and selling a new home is a key life event of huge financial importance. Yet it is too often beset by delay and bureaucracy which leads to unnecessary expense and sales falling through. 

Landmark Information Group's Parliamentary Roundtable shows that there are technology solutions and processes to cut through the red tape, improve sales rates and get better consumer outcomes too. 

“With the willingness and collaboration of the industry together with support from government, faster and better information and processing is a win-win for everyone buying and selling a home.” 

It comes a report by Landmark showed that while sales and completion levels all fell by at least 30% last year compared with 2019, transaction times for purchases only decreased by 10 days vs 2022, from 133 days to 123 days. On the sales side, the process was extended by a further 15 days vs 2022, from 144 days to 159 days.

Ben Robinson, managing director for Landmark Estate Agency Services, said: “In a quieter year, transaction times for sales data should drop – but last year this didn’t happen.

“In fact, timelines increased, and that has put a lot of pressure on estate agents who are only paid after completion. Furthermore, the longer a property takes to sell then the longer they wait to be paid. In 2023, we shifted to a buyers’ market. This put less pressure on buyers to act quickly and gave them the luxury of time to be more particular in their queries and negotiations. Wary of high interest rates and the likelihood of less spare cash after moving, buyers wanted to get the most for their money. In addition, there were ever-shifting interest rates to contend with, leading to increased negotiation and fall throughs.”

Robinson highlighted that most agents are owner-operated and the longer transaction times caused by the enquiry cycle means agents are making less money. 

He added: “This often results in personal cashflow problems and high levels of stress around business-as-usual tasks, such as paying staff, office rent and subscriptions. Financially, 2023 was incredibly difficult – and it remains challenging. 

“In a normal year, estate agents close the last quarter of the year on a high as money comes in from spring and summer sales. After this, they hunker down for a tight start to the year. But sales throughout 2023 were incredibly poor, so cashflow is going to be hard for at least another six months.”

Robinson suggested these issues could be addressed by better communication between all parties in a deal and by providing more upfront information to identify and sort out issues early in the process.

He added: “Agents, in collaboration with proactive solicitors, can develop commercial models to gather information upfront and efficiently plan data collection from homeowners and digital platforms, ready for sharing with relevant parties when needed. This makes the process less of a burden and even more effective in aiding speed and certainty.”

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    Principal 'lawtec' player engages in more hyperbole to confect a false narrative over transaction times.

    There is a supreme irony at work here. Even as the Post Office Horizon It scandal continues to send out shockwaves, lawtec players are in denial over the risks of putting all your digital eggs in one broken virtual basket.

    The other point is that it is the government which is creating weeks of delays over the massive over-implementation of AML controls. No lawtec exists that covers all the AML and SOF checks which need to be undertaken. It is frankly irresponsible to suggest otherwise.

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    Agents are in desperate need of representation at these things, and I don't mean via Propertymark or similar who all lobby in their own vested interests. How dare they invite Rightmove along? Rightmove have nothing to do with property transaction times.
    We can cut transaction times in half by blackballing the conveyancing factories where no one is an actual solicitor, who take on more work than they can handle and who don't know the law.

    Frank Browne

    Absolutely brilliant summary, especially your last paragraph, couldn't have put it better myself!!


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