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By Beth Rudolf

Director of Delivery, Conveyancing Association

OTHER FEATURES

 Improving the home buying and selling process - what's the latest?

Despite the progress made in so many areas, particularly in terms of leasehold reform – although we are calling upon the Government to deliver on the measures it has already announced – it is always worthwhile taking stock of where we are and what we need to move forward.

Understandably, our overarching priority at the CA remains on improving the home buying and selling process for the home mover and, as a result, for all stakeholders. Ostensibly, this is about delivering certainty and transparency to reduce the incumbent stress of moving home as well as ensuring the timeframe for transactions is as short as possible. There are many constituent parts to this, all of which will individually add up to a collective improvement.

This being the case, we recently reset out policy framework around those areas which we believe can make the biggest difference in terms of getting that timeframe down and improving the certainty and transparency within whole process, particularly for consumers.

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You’ll be unsurprised to learn that many of the policies we will continue to push and introduce into the process are not necessarily new. For example, we’ve long been advocates of the benefits to having upfront information about a property and believe that these can be best delivered in the form of enhanced property packs and ongoing logbooks.

Within the Home Buying & Selling Group we have a sub-group focused on upfront information and we are continuing to liaise with a large number of stakeholders on what the property pack, ordered at listing, should contain. However, we are a considerable way down the line in terms of those potential contents and this should be of interest to estate agents who are liable for any failure to satisfy the CPR requirements for what consumers know, or should know, about a specific property.

There is an issue of potential liability here should the buying consumer end up purchasing a property that does not enable their intended use and enjoyment or indeed is impacted by an issue, such as flooding or radon or contamination. Conveyancers too have to undertake the due diligence and highlight these elements if applicable, although they are able to outline their inability to provide advice on, for example, geological issues, etc and that the buyer should get advice from an expert if relevant to them.

However, back to the pack contents. What we want to achieve here is a pack that fills all the requirements in terms of the material facts and best prepares the property for sale to avoid delay and loss.

Again, to reiterate, consumer regulations require the disclosure and agents, one would think, would be keen to have the strongest possible pack of information available to hand over to potential purchasers to convert them from potential to ‘proceedable’ if the property is suitable for them – it is after all a waste of the agent’s time and money, as well as everyone else’s, for a buyer to have to withdraw later when they find a property is not suitable for them or their lender.

As mentioned, we’re still in conversation about what the pack could, and should, contain but here’s a view on what we think is likely: an EPC; a completed Buying & Selling Property Information (BASPI) or equivalent, for example, the NAEA PIQ and Law Society TA6; evidence of Title; in date local authority search; drainage and water search; environmental information; locality dependent searches; the instruction of a property lawyer; and details that the seller has been identified and their relationship to the property verified.

We believe the pack should contain the applicable shared amenity information required from the lease administrator but until the Government delivers on its promise in 2018 to limit the cost of the Leasehold Enquiries (LPE1) to £200 and delivery time to 10 working days with a refresher pack at £50, the CA are not keen to facilitate the unfairness of those lease administrators who currently charge £700 and can take on average 54 days to deliver the documents after payment.

We believe a pack which contains all of the above will go a long way to those who provide it meeting their responsibilities, but also for the consumer to have the required information to be able to move forward with certainty that the property is right for them.

Coupled with measures such as greater use of digital ID, we should be able to improve on a process which is currently taking over 20 weeks to complete, as they have done in other jurisdictions such as Norway where they have reduced property fraud from 1% to 0.0014% thanks to digital ID and full upfront information enabling a binding offer.

This is all about getting those ducks in a row early and mitigating against duplication of work and effort. It’s also about empowering property professionals to work with clients to highlight the benefits this greater upfront information can bring them, to point out the cost savings available, and the greater certainty it will provide them to cut down on the risks of property sales falling through.

The end of the stamp duty holiday gives us a chance to reset slightly, and to outline exactly what is needed to improve the process and how we now go about delivering it, and the solutions we can present to Government to push this forward. It will require a concerted effort from all industry stakeholders who I hope recognise that, by cutting down on the time to completion and improving the certainty for the consumer, the greater opportunity there is to write more business and avoid more loss.

*Beth Rudolf is Director of Delivery at the Conveyancing Association (CA)

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    All these things are well and good but most of these things are pretty minor compared to abolishing stamp duty itself. Most economists believe it should go since it has huge deadweight costs and keeps people in places they don't want to be for longer than they ideally would be, which entrenches crap living standards and unemployment due to being tied to an unwanted property.

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