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.