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Buying and Selling – Let’s Improve the Process!

In October 2017 the Government acknowledged that the public is not satisfied with the current buying and selling process, so they launched a consultation with a view to improving the system.

Generally, there is a demand for the process to be cheaper, faster and less stressful.

Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid, commented: ‘…for far too long buyers and sellers have been trapped in a stressful system full of delays and uncertainty. So we’re going to put the consumers back in the driving seat’.

Figures show that over a quarter of sales fall through each year. Due to the time between an offer being accepted and contracts being exchanged (currently approximately 6 – 8 weeks) and no legal commitment prior to that point, buyers worry that sellers will accept a higher offer (known as “gazumping”), and sellers worry that buyers will change their mind and walk away.

The Proposal

The consultation process concluded in December 2017 and the Government has published its Summary of Responses to the Call for Evidence this month: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/improving-the-home-buying-and-selling-process-call-for-evidence

A number of recommendations have been made following the consultation, and we have noted the following points:

Speed:

  • Efforts to move towards electronic conveyancing should continue, with a view to streamlining ID verification (without minimising risk of fraud) and digital signatures.
  • Sellers should get all of the documentation relating to the property together as soon as possible, so that contract paperwork can be issued quickly following acceptance of an offer.
  • A form of “property logbook” should begin, so that all information relating to a property is stored and easily accessible when it comes to sell.
  • Local authorities will be requested to return search results within 10 working days.

Less Stress:

  • The Government will publish two new guides for the public: ‘How to Buy’ and ‘How to Sell’, which will aim to provide a buyer and seller with a general overview and provide a better understanding of the process. It is likely that these may be distributed by estate agents.
  • Availability of a “chain view” system, so that there is open information about the number of transactions in a chain and their status. When it comes to dates for exchange and completion, not knowing how other people in the chain are placed can lead to uncertainties and unnecessary stress.
  • Voluntary Reservation Agreements are to be trialled. It will not be a binding offer system like Scotland, but introduce a short form document that shows a level of commitment to the transaction from the buyer and seller. The Government plans to spend some time developing this so that it does not have adverse legal costs consequences.

Costs:

  • Where an estate agent receives a ‘referral fee’ for recommending a solicitor or mortgage broker, this information should be made clear to the consumer.
  • Choosing a property solicitor or conveyancer should be based on level of service, rather than just on price and this is planned to form a part of the guidance publications to be produced by the Government. It is proposed that more transparent data should be available, such as reviews, speed and the qualification of the person handling the transaction.

Maitland Walker’s Reflection

We are driven to provide the best possible service to our clients and wholeheartedly welcome any recommendations that can improve that service.

We already use electronic communication whenever possible in order to speed up the process, and we would be keen to join in any advances made to speed up the ID and signing process, once this is available. Of course, we do also welcome clients who prefer the traditional approach of face-to-face meetings and hard copy documents for review. We are happy to be flexible and provide information in the format preferred by each individual client.

We agree that a “chain view” system would be beneficial to all parties; a lot of frustration can be caused by the unknown, whereas having accurate chain information should lead to realistic expectations and reduce the worry brought by uncertainty.

As the proposed Voluntary Reservation Agreement would not have any binding effect, we are not currently convinced that the benefit will outweigh the additional stage to the process (which we suspect will have an effect on timings) and the associated additional cost. It seems to us that the other proposals made with regards speed and chain view has the potential to add the required level of comfort without the need for an additional agreement. However, if the trial receives a positive review, we would be very happy to assist clients with this process.

We are in favour of open information to allow people to make informed decisions about the level of service that they are likely to receive from their conveyancer/solicitor, rather than only basing their decision on the cost. Client satisfaction is paramount to Maitland Walker and we pride ourselves on the level of positive feedback that we receive.

 

For further information on how Maitland Walker can assist in a smooth property sale or purchase, please contact the Property Team on 01643 707777 (Minehead) or 01823 745777 (Taunton), or email: melanie.smith@maitlandwalker.com