When it comes to major issues confronting housing, and in particular the direction that the government would like to take the market, there are few (perhaps with the exception of leasehold) which are seemingly as important as the provision of upfront information.
To say that estate agents play a pivotal role in this is an understatement, and in terms of wanting to speed up the process, to make it more efficient, and to ‘get things in order’ prior to the marketing of a property, it’s clear that agents are going to be expected to continue to play a very important ‘front of house’ role.
Currently, at the centre of this – and an initiative that agents themselves and their trade bodies are playing a major part in – is the Home Buyer & Sellers’ Group (HBSG) Sellers’ Information Form, or as you may have heard it called, the Upfront Information Form.
This has been created out of an industry initiative initially via an NAEA Propertymark working group and a sub-group of the HBSG (made up of trade bodies and property professionals) and is intended to remove the current duplications in the process by both satisfying the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs) and providing the remainder of the information from the seller required for the conveyancing process all in one form.
As I’m sure you’re aware, suspected breaches of the CPRs have been at the heart of much of the ‘leasehold scandal’ with developers in particular in the spotlight for not providing the required information upfront to potential purchasers to allow them to make a reasoned and informed decision about buying such properties.
For what it’s worth, there is much more to be talked about this, given a case went to the High Court on March 12, and we await the outcome. It is likely to present a precedent however from which many more cases may be brought.
Anyway, back to the form and how this is likely to be taken forward because – as mentioned above – we at the Conveyancing Association (CA) see this as being a crucial part of the home buying and selling process in the future.
Indeed, some agents are already using a version of a similar form but it’s also important that this contains all the information required upfront, not just some of it.
Again, if that information is missing and it’s deemed to be a crucial part of the buyer’s decision then there could be a case to answer.
Producing the form has taken some time, as it was important to secure as much input as possible. For instance, the latest version incorporates additional questions requested via consultation, and based on previous complaints to the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team (NTSEAT), which should prick up the ears of all agents.
It should be on your radar because the form will be completed by the seller at the point of marketing at the request of the estate agent and it is hoped that this will encourage the early instruction of conveyancers.
Again, this will be a benefit right across the piece, because we believe the collation and provision of such information upfront, coupled with the early ‘intervention’ of conveyancers, can not only help speed up the entire process, but provide a ‘foundation of confidence’ from which all parties can work from.
The form is currently split into two sections which serves the two separate purposes – one for the CPR, which requires subjective opinion, and the second being the conveyancing information required for the transaction.
Combining these two purposes in one form reduces the duplication currently inherent in the system and provides a comprehensive form for conveyancers to work from.
Given both agents’ and conveyancers’ role in the process, I’m sure any initiative which stops the requirement for duplicated information to be provided multiple times will be welcomed.
To ease some agents’ minds, you will just be expected to trigger the completion of the form, rather than complete it yourself, as this will be a job for the seller who will sign the disclosure statement.
We know that you already have to complete a CPR disclosure form and this new form is a way to collate more information upfront which will improve and inform the process.
The form is worded in order to encourage the completion of both parts at the same time, at the point of marketing.
Overall, with some further consultation and questions to be answered on the contents of the form, we are looking a little further into the future in terms of the form’s introduction.
However, we believe this can help move the whole process forward and goes a very long way to addressing the major concerns about consumers not being in possession of all of the facts before, for example, they place an offer on a property.
We want to give far greater certainty in this area, and believe this form can deliver for all stakeholders.
Overall though, we know that a legally-prepared property will result in a quicker transaction and less fall-throughs, and that has to be a good thing for everyone.
*Beth Rudolf is Director of Delivery at the Conveyancing Association (CA)