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Comment: Add surveys to housing reform

Government’s consultation must not ignore the role played by surveys

Wareham-Paul-MD-CW-SurveyorsThe Government has at last woken up to the importance of reforming the homebuying and -selling process and now, after so many years of little or no action, the long and extremely winding road to reform is about to end.

This follows the recent news that secretary of state for communities & local government Sajid Javid has called for evidence about how best to proceed from everyone involved in the process. His consultation signals the Government’s intention to take a more wide-ranging approach to the housing market and, instead of tinkering with parts of it, tackle it head on.

However, the unusual thing about the consultation, which was open until 17 December, was that it barely mentioned surveys.

Home information packs

This is a significant turnaround from the last major attempt, during the early and mid-noughties, to reform the homebuying and -selling process, with the introduction of Home Information Packs, which required vendors to pull together all the information about a house in advance.

You may recall that surveys were a key part of Hips but also one of the main reasons they failed; lenders concluded that Hips surveys were too often out of date by the time a lending decision had to be taken.

But this time around, although the consultation document barely mentioned them, surveys must play a significant role in improving the homebuying and -selling process.

Technology

Technology has made huge advances since the noughties and the sophistication of automated valuation model-based valuations means we are getting very close to being able to decouple surveying and lending; surveys for the millions of ‘standard’ homes in the UK could soon be brought forward in the process.

AVMs mean lenders are already able to make much quicker decisions but, if the technology is taken to its ultimate conclusion, it will enable homes to be marketed as ‘pre-approved’ for lending.

But do not mistake such initiatives for a ‘lite’ version of Hips. Instead, this is part of the ongoing technological revolution that is helping to restructure how lending decisions are made, and something I am sure the Government will include in its new approach.

Paul Wareham is managing director of Countrywide Surveying Services

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