UK: Five Ideas To Improve The Home Buying And Selling Process

Last Updated: 25 January 2018
Article by Amy Lynch and Louise Moore

Reforming the home buying and selling process will require some fresh thinking and a more innovative approach, so we have submitted a consultation document to the government making a number of suggestions as to how the system might be streamlined.

Buying and selling a home can be one of life's most stressful experiences, but the Government is seeking to change that. After committing to reforming the home buying and selling process in its manifesto, a consultation is in progress to get views and suggestions on what needs to change.

As conveyancing solicitors, we see first-hand the issues with the system and how these can cause frustration, delay and stress to buyers and sellers time and time again.

Reforming the process will require some fresh thinking and a more innovative approach, so we have submitted a consultation document to the government making a number of suggestions as to how the system might be streamlined. Here are the top five:

1. Move the local authority search online

The local authority search is one of the most important sources of information about a property, including planning and highways matters. It is also the search which takes the longest to return.

To make the process much faster, this data should be accessible online which alone could speed up a property transaction by an average of at least two weeks.

2. Create an online portal for compulsory information

When we are instructed on a sale, we prepare a pack with everything that a buyer requires to swiftly proceed to exchange of contracts. This should be a requirement of all solicitors.

The use of an online portal, which would enable all of this compulsory information to be collated in one place, would also be beneficial. The portal would include Land Registry documents, replies to standard enquiries and local authority information and other searches, providing the buyer with as much information as possible from the outset to enable them to make a more informed decision when submitting their offer.

As conveyancing solicitors, we see first-hand the issues with the system and how these can cause frustration, delay and stress to buyers and sellers time and time again.

3. Stipulate funding evidence

In our experience, many transactions falter because a buyer has not obtained suitable funding at the outset. We recommend making it compulsory for all buyers to have secured funding in principle at the time of making an offer.

4. Introduce reservation agreements

Increasing commitment to a sale between buyers and sellers is a vital part of any future reform. The use of exclusivity agreements is one option that's being considered but these can cause delay and take weeks to negotiate.

An alternative is to introduce a reservation period, of around 90 days, as part of the offer process. During this time, the seller wouldn't be able to accept an offer from somebody else.

A reservation agreement could be introduced similar to what is provided on new builds, which would see both parties commit to a period of time and a set price, preventing them from negotiating with anyone else until that time had lapsed.

5. Stricter rules for managing agents

Managing agents of leasehold properties hold a great deal of important information about the properties that they manage. However, there is currently no standardised or consistent approach to them providing this information or in relation to the fees they charge.

It would speed up the transaction if all managing agents were all required to give the same prescribed information at a fixed price within a required timescale.

Benefits for all parties

Conveyancing has been slow to keep up with digital technology and the habits of home buyers and sellers. Changes are essential and achievable if all those involved work together to take advantage of new technology and opportunities to refine some of the core procedures.

By streamlining the process, solicitors can add value where it really matters, administration can be significantly reduced and most importantly, both buyer and seller can benefit from cheaper, faster and less worrisome transactions.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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