View more on these topics

OFT lashes councils for cashing in on searches

The Office of Fair Trading has slammed local authorities for charging consumers too much for property searches, with costs ranging from 55 to 269.

With sellers having to provide Home Information Packs by 2007 the OFT has called on local authorities in England and Wales to make the property information they hold more readily available to buyers, sellers and estate agents.

Property information is obtained through three main routes. The first is via a direct request to the information holder. The second is through an electronic gateway that acts as a centralised point of contact between information holders and consumers and their conveyancers. The third way is through a property search company which co-ordinates searches to provide a single data package.

Local authorities hold most of the information needed to complete a property search. They provide information under a complex framework of legislation. Some local authorities restrict access by property buyers and their agents to the information they hold.

With prices ranging wildly from 55 to 269 the OFT says it’s likely many are overcharging. It recommends that local authorities make their property information available to third parties on non- discriminatory terms that do not advantage their own property search activities over competing search providers.

This should create greater consumer choice and more effective competition in the market for property information.

The OFT has also called for the electronic National Land Information Service software to be made more freely available.

It says local authorities should be encouraged to set up connections with retailers outside NLIS to create greater consumer choice.

Sir John Vickers, chairman of the OFT, says: “Property buyers must have all the relevant information that might affect their choice of property.

“Developing electronic provision and the introduction of Home Information Packs means there is an opportunity to set the conditions for a dynamic market that serves consumers well in the future.”

Paul Holden, sales director at MortgageStream Software, says: “This is great news. It effectively makes for a level playing field across the industry. It’s not a huge leap of the imagination to think that brokers will one day be able to upload information to a government website and do a property search from that data.”

Recommended

Unlocking the potential

There is substantial demand in the equity release market but distribution is becoming a problem as advisers shy away from what they see as a high risk sale, says Harvey Jones.

Huntswood appointment

Huntswood has appointed Brian Millhouse managing director for Scotland. The appointment follows the opening of new offices for the firm in Strathclyde Business Park in November 2004.

Record half-year results for Leeds

Leeds Building Society today revealed record half-year interim results with assets increasing by 9% during the first half of 2005 to 6.7bn. Pre-tax profits were 24m, and mortgage completions increased by 8% to a record 881m, compared to the same period last year. Saving balances also rose by 179m to a record 4.3bn. There was […]

Lenders should innovate rather than charge high fees

From Wesley Davidson Why has almost every buy-to-let lender decided to charge fixed rate 1% and 1.5% fees? It seems there is a ‘low rate, high fee’ bandwagon on the move. The Mortgage Works started the wagon rolling and since then lenders have jumped on it in droves. In most cases I have brokered I […]

Newsletter

News and expert analysis straight to your inbox

Sign up