Conveyancers should have early sight of any complexities which can help to reduce post valuation queries and it will foster greater collaboration through the delivery of digital technology solutions, without waiting on Government reform and legislation.
The great collaboration debate continues to roll on and doesn’t misunderstand me, that’s all very positive and changing the “narrative” around how we work across a property transaction needs to continue because there is a bigger educational piece, but it also needs action and momentum to succeed.
Right now, without seeking and waiting for legislative changes to the whole conveyancing process, providing material information for a buyer and creating change is at the centre of improving the property transaction process and it benefits every stakeholder involved. Those of you waiting for Government mandated or the “perfect solution” is an eye-rolling moment for me and feels like a bit of a cop-out if I’m honest. It’s up to us, the people and the professionals on the ground to implement and push forward some of the initiatives that are available now to create the momentum that will bring a sea change across the marketplace and to the current selling and buying process.
What are the benefits of the upfront (otherwise known as material) information agenda?
Let’s begin with the estate agent who I believe truly owns the customer journey end to end; after all they receive keys to manage viewings and handover keys to the new owner upon completion, so they are best placed to trigger the process of material information and indeed compelled to do so -from 1st June, under the new guidelines laid down by the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team (NTSELAT) led by James Munro.
Firstly, let’s put that myth to rest that sellers and buyers don’t want information shared or transferred because they want to delay the sale and purchase. Yes, sometimes there will be genuine reasons why they might not be able to move as quickly as each other would like (relocation, schools etc) but that is helpful information itself to then manage timescales and expectations. Most people want to complete as quickly as possible with the minimum of fuss.
Secondly, common law states that a seller must disclose any defects that they are aware of, so it’s not just a case of “buyer beware”. The current problem is that this disclosure on the part of the seller is not made until well into the process after a sale has been agreed, lawyers instructed and various documents have been received, completed and returned. That is precious time that can be saved by providing material information at the outset which could prevent a failed transaction later in the process.
Simon Wilkinson is an independent agent who operates 2 branches from Winslow in Buckinghamshire & Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire. He has been using the BASPI form derived from the Home Buying & Selling Group, to prove the benefits to his own business.
“We have been providing up front information over the last 3 years, for well over 1, 000 properties. Without question it has added transparency, flagged up any issues very early on and then had them resolved. Thus, it has speeded up sales and made the firm and my staff more professional.”
This resonates with the findings from mio’s Home Movers Survey 2021 where 68% said that “trust in the agents’ ability to manage their sale” was ranked highest when choosing an Estate Agent.
Quite rightly, agents today continually worry about pipeline turnover…or lack of it because it’s a real financial worry for many of them who, traditionally would have turned a pipeline over 4 times per year. But in today’s market where the average transaction takes circa 22 weeks that’s more like 2.4! It begs the question that if you were to replay those transactions with the benefits of the provision of upfront data, would there be such a high volume of transactions stuck in the u-bend and would we see a drop in the national average fall through rate of circa 30%!?
I asked Beth Rudolf from the Conveyancing Association to explain the difference between BASPI & part A, B, C of National Trading Standards guidelines and to give her views on taking active steps right now.
“Given the delays to the delivery of legislation at the moment, Mr Gove may be relying on Consumer Protection From Unfair Trading Regulations to get upfront information off the ground as soon as possible as it is clear from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) white paper and the FutureGov report, that DLUHC want to see the work undertaken by the Home Buying & Selling Group (HBSG) delivered, and quickly.
This will be through NTSELAT who are setting out for the industry what the material information is, starting with the things that apply to every property, for example location, tenure and the affordability for a potential buyer based on Council Tax, ground rents and service charges, however by the time they deliver phase C it will need to identify everything which would be material to the average consumer and that is what the HBSG have already identified and included in the BASPI (Buyers & Sellers Property Information) dataset.
Whereas legislation might take many, many years, NTSELAT could deliver all three phases and the guidance behind it with 18 months, and of course coming down the line will be the fines, where estate agents do not deliver the material information, in future. Conveyancers absolutely need to get behind this now to be able to check that the information that a buyer has based their offer on is correct. The Property Data Trust Framework ensures that the provenance of the data is authenticated so conveyancers know what they can trust and what they need to check.
If the laggards do not deliver on this then the government are clear that they will legislate, and don’t forget, the HIPS regulations are still on the statute book so could easily be updated in secondary legislation to require that a seller or their agent has to deliver a summary of the material information at the point of listing. The consumers want it, the industry knows it will work, so why wait?”
Reference is made to the Property Data Trust Framework which is another sub-working group of the HBSG chaired by Maria Harris. If we are to work with and rely on one source of truth, then the way in which that data is sourced and shared is vitally important and Paul Albone from tmgroup is contributing his experience in this area.
The time is now!
Paul Albone – CTO tmgroup
“There appears to be a renewed energy in the industry at the moment which is nurturing a collaborative approach to information sharing and this is going to be a fundamental pillar to the success of the upfront information agenda. Visible data provenance, and the trust associated with it, is key to a wide audience acceptance of this information as it gets transferred across the transaction from Homemover and Estate Agent to the Conveyancer. The working parties within HBSG are so important for the success and adoption of data standards in achieving this aim and the effort being expended by the Property Data Trust Framework Group is setting the cornerstones for others to build upon. It reminds me of the work I did helping form the PISCES data standards back in the early 2000s. It’s an exciting time, and about time I hear you cry!”
Historically part of the problem is that the information is siloed and what we are moving towards is the unlocking and sharing of data based upon a recognised data standard being created by the work in Maria’s group that will allow interoperable systems leading to efficiencies throughout the process for all stakeholders.
Simon won’t have to wait too long for his digital solution either, since property technology suppliers such as tmgroup are developing services that make it very easy for agents to follow the latest guidelines whether they’re taking A, B, C baby steps or taking full advantage of the BASPI form.
Information is knowledge and knowledge builds trust with your sellers and buyers and conveyancers, and this will lead to fewer failed transactions and a better experience for everyone.
*Jon Horton is product director at Mio