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Reforms to house buying process and agents’ qualifications announced

The government has announced further measures which will, in its words, “professionalise” house buying and the estate agency business.

In yet another Sunday morning announcement the government says it will:

- Insist sales agents (as well as letting agents) hold a professional qualification and be transparent about the fees they receive for referring clients to solicitors, surveyors and mortgage brokers; 


- Encourage the use of voluntary reservation agreements to help prevent sales falling through and crack down on gazumping;

- Set a timeline for local authority searches so buyers get the information they need within 10 days;

- Require managing agents and freeholders to provide up-to-date lease information for a set fee and to an agreed timetable “which will end the current situation where leaseholders are at the mercy of freeholders and their agents”;

— Strengthen the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team so they can carry out more enforcement activity which includes banning agents;

- Publish guides on ‘How to Buy’ and ‘How to Sell’ to ensure customers are better informed of the process and know what questions they should be asking;

- Work with consumer groups and industry to develop a “consistent set of performance metrics for conveyancers” so consumers can make a more informed choice.

Housing Secretary Sajid Javid says: “Buying a home is one of the biggest and most important purchases someone will make in their life. But for far too long buyers and sellers have been trapped in a stressful system full of delays and uncertainty.

“So we’re going to put the consumers back in the driving seat. We will require estate agents to hold a qualification so that people are no longer at risk from a minority of ‘rogue agents’ and can trust the process when buying or selling their home.”

The government estimates that there are approximately 20,000 estate agent businesses across the country, and currently, anyone can practice as an estate agent. 

It says its proposals will “professionalise the sector, creating a more trustworthy and reliable industry who will be better held to account.”

The government claims that with over one million homes bought and sold in England each year, delays and complications during the process cause unnecessary financial and emotional stress to customers. “This uncertainty can lead to delayed decisions and contributes to over one quarter of house sales falling through annually” it says. 

According to government research, more than six out of 10 buyers and sellers have experienced stress, and around a quarter of sellers said they would use a different estate agent if they were to go through the process again.

This is second Sunday in succession that the government has made a major announcement about our industry - last week the subject was lettings reform. 

  • Don Holmes

    More good news.
    The interesting point here is the question of policing has at last been answerd. The strengthening of the NTS teams now shows which body will be tasked with overseeing our industry.

  • Peter Ambrose

    Gracious - what about all those law firms that depend on work being fed to them by rapacious panel management companies. If consumers know that they are paying less to the lawyers than the middlemen, maybe, just maybe, they will stop doing it.
    Heaven forbid that law firms might have to actually go out and win work. What are they going to do?

  • James C

    Great news... I don’t understand why agents in the UK do not already use a reservation agreement and take a deposit from a buyer. As an agent in Spain, this is standard throughout the industry, with deposits only being refundable if there is an unreasonable legal issue with the property. This stops vendors and buyers simply deciding to not buy or sell (vendors sign the agreement which states they pay back double the deposit if they decide to cancel).


    Wow, lawyers will have a field day when one side wants out of the deal after signing uch an agreement. Unless it becomes a condition that you cannot have an offer accepted unless you sign this Government prescribed document, house buying/selling will be bogged down in negotiating terms.

    By any chance will the Government make VAT from such agreements? Like HIPs..like EPCs....

  • Iain  White

    At last , let's hope it gets implemented properly and policed correctly

  • Kevin  Hand

    I would say that most of these issues are to do with conveyancing. In my (Scottish) experience the Estate Agent hands over to an independent solicitor once the sale is agreed to thrash out the legals.
    The buying system needs overhalled but as an Agent I have little influence on the things mentioned in the article.

  • Kevin  Hand

    I would say that most of these issues are to do with conveyancing. In my (Scottish) experience the Estate Agent hands over to an independent solicitor once the sale is agreed to thrash out the legals.
    The buying system needs overhalled but as an Agent I have little influence on the things mentioned in the article.

  • John Evans

    The more professional the industry is, fees can increase. :)

  • Simon Shinerock

    This was predictable. Having been through Financial Services regulation I can say with certainty that if they come in these new rules will be a hammer to crack a nut and they will disproportionately affect honest agents, the ones currently welcoming their arrival. It's likely these changes will take some time to implement but learning from history, the survivors of the FS debacle mostly took shelter with Networks like Mortgage Advice Bureau because of the complexities of direct authorisation. We went direct, a mistake I don't intend repeating, this time I'm starting my own Network early on, want to join? Email me at simon.shinerock@gmail.com

  • David Gibbs

    This will not make one iota of difference and will NOT cut out rogue agents. Whether you are bent or clean, you can pass exams and be accredited to certain companies which gives the impression of being above board. It’s just another hoop us agents have to jump through.


    Indeed, just like conveyancers. A law firm can badge their cleaner as a conveyancer and off they go. Zero regulation of the actual person touching the file!

    There are NO plans at all to tackle the quality of the actual conveyancer which would fix the home moving process dramatically.

    Nodding at the headline, but the reality will mean failure of the goal.

  • David Bennett

    Long overdue and those experienced and professional agents have nothing to fear and everything to gain. When The Estate Agents Act came in, I recall the panic, but then realised, that my old firm of chartered surveyors, had been doing it that way for years! Similarly, with The Property Descriptions Act. If you are law abiding and already doing it, it will just be a certificate on the wall!

  • Mike Lewis

    This is long overdue but sadly, I very much doubt the government will really do anything about this, at least not in my lifetime!

  • Kristjan Byfield

    Sounds like a sensible and long overdue framework- lets see how well (and how long it takes) to be effectively implemented. Great tp see the industry concerns over effective enforcement addressed though!

  • Kay Pemberton


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