There has been a wide range of views from trade bodies and individual agents on the government’s surprise ‘call for evidence’ on the house buying process.
The government has given the industry and other interested parties eight weeks to respond to the consultation.
On social media James Wyatt - partner at Surrey agency Barton Wyatt - said: “Oh dear. Government trying to think they can improve the house buying ‘process’ ... but with no ideas at all. #idiots”
Outspoken housing commentator and buying agent Henry Pryor wrote on Twitter: “Dear Minister - I bought a house in Bridport. The local searches took nine weeks. You might want to start by resourcing councils. Luv, HCLP.”
Pryor added: “If I had a brick for every report, consultation, focus group and enquiry there would be no housing crisis. Stop asking questions and build!”
Mark Hayward, chief executive of NAEA Propertymark, says of the announcement: “We recognise there is scope to improve the process for home buying and selling and look forward to working with government on this. We are particularly pleased to see government is looking to introduce more regulation of estate agents.”
Meanwhile London agent and former RICS residential chairman Jeremy Leaf says gazundering and gazumping are symptoms of a broken system, not the causes. “The government needs to look at the delays that make the process take so long – conveyancing, contracts and searches. If people are willing to move quickly they should be able to, giving less time for others to change their minds.”
The chief executive of hybrid agency eMoov, Russell Quirk, says there is a need to encourage eConveyancing and to ensure that all documentation is in one place and digitally accessible by all parties to a transaction.
“We must ensure that surveyors, local authorities and lenders are legally compelled to work faster and for the buyer not against them ... Allow electronic signatures to be used within the process to speed the back and forth ... Introduce title insurance as they do in the USA as a 'catch all' ... Force the conveyancing process to deal with the multiple work streams in parallel rather than consecutively” he says.
Consumer groups have also added their voice to the debate.
“Buyers don't mind if it takes 10 weeks to move, they just want the certainty that it is going to happen ... Buyers can be out of pocket by up to £1,500 for each transaction, not to mention other expenses incurred when having to change plans, just because someone on a whim decides to pull out of a transaction somewhere along the chain ... Gazundering, gazumping, collapsing chains, and one in three sales falling through. It takes too long, is too uncertain, too open to abuse by unscrupulous operators” according to Paula Higgins, chief executive of the HomeOwners Alliance consumer group.
Alex Neill, a managing director at consumer body Which?, says: “The current home buying process is outdated and flawed. The government must put consumers first, ensuring that estate agents deliver a better service for both home-buyers and sellers and that the conveyancing process is simplified."