Government response to call for evidence on improving the home buying and selling process

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has published a response to their call for evidence on improving the home buying and selling process. This sets out their proposals to improve the current system for consumers.

In our response we were clear that the home buying and selling process can, and should, be made easier and more efficient for home buyers and sellers, solicitors and all parts of the industry.

We wholly agree with the minister when he says that there is no ‘silver bullet’ solution to the problem. After the assessment of the responses, government say that there is no one change that can fix the process at a stroke. Instead, they are looking to introduce or encourage the introduction of some practical changes that can be implemented to improve the experience.

The areas that government think need improvement include:

  • providing a better experience for the consumer
  • reducing the time from offer to completion
  • reducing the number of failed transactions.

Key proposals

Key government proposals include:

  • increasing regulation for estate agents. Estate agents will be required to hold a professional qualification. Government say they will strengthen the enforcement of the existing regulatory framework through the National Trading Standards Agency Team
  • working with estate agents, their trade bodies, the ombudsmen and the regulator to develop a standardised approach to reporting referral fees.
  • developing and publishing ‘How to Buy’ and ‘How to Sell‘ guides
  • improving the process of buyer complaints in the new build market
  • making the release of funds better to improve ‘moving day’.

How to select a conveyancer

Government say they are clear that more needs to be done by the conveyancing industry and the relevant regulatory bodies to give consumers more information. This is to include standardised information that relates not only to costs, but also provides some element of performance data.

This is likely to involve more transparent data, standard metrics, kite marks and quality standards. Government say they will work with industry and consumer groups to develop these solutions.

Leasehold information

The summary highlights how leasehold property takes on average 2/3 weeks longer than freehold transactions mainly due to delays in receiving property information from the freeholder or managing agent.

Government say they will:

  • set fixed time frames and maximum fees for the provision of leasehold information, potentially with statutory underpinning, and encourage managing agents to make this information available electronically to enable instant access.
  • work with industry to standardise the leasehold information form.

Local authority searches

Government say they will:

  • set an expectation to all local authorities that they should respond to search requests within 10 working days
  • take action against authorities if they fail to meet these expected performance levels.

Reservation agreements

Government hopes that the use of these will increase commitment between buyers and sellers earlier in the process. MHCLG believe that making these agreements a more common part of the process could reduce the rate of failed transactions and limit the risk of gazumping.

Government say they will:

  • work with industry to develop a short standard reservation agreement which can be used in any transaction
  • commission behavioural insight research to determine ways to encourage consumers to adopt these agreements
  • pilot these agreements, the objective being to make them a standard component of the process.