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More backing for buying reforms from conveyancers and agents

The Conveyancing Association has backed the government’s calls for extensive reform of the buying and selling process, announced at the weekend.

The government advocated the regulation and 'professionalisation' of estate agents including the need to hold a professional qualification and a requirement to  be transparent over referral fees, searches to be available within 10 days, and the possible introduction of reservation agreements to help combat failed transactions.

"There is plenty to welcome here, especially when it comes to speeding up the process and the use of technology in order to improve transaction times” says Eddie Goldsmith, chairman of the Conveyancing Association.

"If we are being brutally honest then we would have preferred a larger degree of mandation particularly around, for example, providing certainty on completion ... That said it is very positive to see the government referencing the need to improve completion, saying it will work with removal firms, conveyancers and lenders to see how it can improve the release of funds process” he

Meanwhile the HomeOwners’ Alliance consumer group says there is overwhelming public support for many of the measures.

The HOA says 82 per cent of adults support the idea of a government backed license for estate agents, and 80 per cent would like to see buyers show proof of funds before being able to put in an offer to buy a property.

In addition some 75 per cent support the idea of a reservation agreement requiring buyers and sellers to put down a non-refundable deposit to commit both sides earlier in the process

The HOA’s survey, conducted by polling organisation YouGov, was conducted three days before the government’s announcement, but asked about several themes which were in the measures announced by Housing Secretary Sajid Javid on Sunday. 

“These figures mirror what we hear repeatedly from our members. Estate agents are an essential part of the home buying and selling process, but unfortunately, a number of those operating within the sector have a cavalier approach when it comes to good practice. Sellers are trusting agents with their most expensive asset, and too many are receiving shoddy service. By professionalising the industry, the government will give buyers and sellers greater peace of mind, and better practice” insists Paula Higgins, the HOA’s chief executive.

On top of that, more agents have backed the moves, announced by the government on Sunday.

Rob Clifford, chief executive of franchise agency group Century 21 UK, says the measures have come “not before time” as agency is the last industry with no barriers to entry. 

“There are many very good estate agents out there who are not professionally qualified or vastly experienced, but are actually doing a brilliant job. It shouldn’t be about driving these people out of the industry. Instead, we should be focusing on the ‘men of straw’ who can’t afford to run a competent business or compensate consumers who suffer failure. These are the ones who need to go” he says. 

“It will be interesting to see if this goes in the same direction as mortgage regulations, which started with a mandatory qualification and then moved on to professional indemnity insurance, the Ombudsman and eventually full statutory regulation” according to Clifford.

And Gary Hersham, founder of Beauchamp Estates in central London, says the initiatives are “most welcome.”

“Beauchamp Estates have always encouraged staff to pursue relevant qualifications and to join sector specific associations such as the NAEA and ARLA. The introduction will improve the image and standing of estate agents in general” he says.

“The issues of professionalism, standards and ethics have long plagued the estate agency sector, where the behavior of some unscrupulous companies and individuals have greatly tarnished the sector’s perceived reputation and that of many truly talented professionals.”  

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