At a speech given at the Council for Licensed Conveyancers annual conference, Helen Wheeler MP outlined some of the projects the ministry for housing, communities and local government has on the go regarding the buying and selling of houses.
Bemoaning the fact that, according to government research, between a quarter and a third of all transactions fail, costing buyers and sellers an estimated £270m a year, Wheeler explained that her department wanted to reform the process around information; speed; accountability; consumer confidence; and competition and innovation.
In terms of information, she revealed that “in the spring, we’ll be publishing our ‘How to buy’ and ‘How to sell’ guides – to help consumers navigate every stage of the process.”
Wheeler added that they will sit alongside the existing ‘How to rent’ and ‘How to lease’ guides, published in 2018.
Regarding speeding up the process of buying and selling a property, Wheeler stated that the government would be drawing up a timetable and fees that laid out exactly when freeholders and managing agents would have to provide information.
Wheeler also brought up the fact that government research showed that 70 per cent of buyers and 66 per cent of sellers thought their sale wouldn’t complete, even when an offer had been accepted.
“Too many people are walking on a tightrope from the moment they put in that offer… things can happen over 19 weeks that can genuinely scupper a move – and I wouldn’t want to force anyone to move if they don’t want to,” she said.
“That’s why we’re taking forward our work to develop a standard reservation agreement, working with the industry-led Home Buying and Selling Group.
“We want to increase people’s commitment by ensuring that they’ve got some skin in the game.”
She added that the government will be running a field trial of an agreement “later this year.”
Moving on to consumer confidence, Wheeler said that a lack of transparency in conveyancer referral fees was a worry, going on to say that the National Trading Standards is currently producing new guidance for estate agents.
Finally, she said that the government is looking at streamlining ID verification and making more use of e-signatures in the purchasing process.
“Ultimately,” she concluded, “we not only want to protect consumers, we want to be their champion, because frankly, they deserve better than the current system allows.”