Review of Home Buying Process in England

Possible Areas for Reform

It particular it is seeking views on:
  • Gazumping – buyers have expressed concerned about gazumping, with sellers accepting a higher offer from a new buyer.
  • Building trust & confidence - mistrust between parties is apparently one of the biggest issues faced, and so the Government wants to look at schemes including ‘lock-in agreements’. Although one million homes are bought and sold in England each year, around a quarter of sales fall through and hundreds of millions of pounds are wasted, and so the Government wants to increase confidence in the housing chain.
  • Informing customers - how to provide better guidance for buyers and sellers, by encouraging them to gather more information in advance so homes are ‘sale ready’.
  • Innovation –buyers can search for a home online, but the buying process is too slow, costing time and money. The Government is looking for innovative digital solutions including making more data available online.


Consumers Unhappy with Current Process

The Government had committed to reforming and modernising the home buying process in its manifesto to make it more efficient and less costly.
It says that change is much needed, especially after recent research amongst 2,000 people who had bought or sold a home found that:
  • of those that experienced delays, 69% of sellers and 62% of buyers reported stress and worry as a result of the delay;
  • 46% of sellers had concerns about a buyer changing their mind after making an offer;
  • 24% of sellers would use a different estate agent if they were to go through the process again; and
  • 32% of sellers and 28% of buyers were dissatisfied with the other party’s solicitor.
“We want to help everyone have a good quality home they can afford, and improving the process of buying and selling is part of delivering that,” explained Communities Secretary Sajid Javid. “Buying a home is one of life’s largest investments, so if it goes wrong it can be costly. That’s why we’re determined to take action to make the process cheaper, faster and less stressful.”
“This can help save people money and time so they can focus on what matters – finding their dream home,” he added. “I want to hear from the industry on what more we can do to tackle this issue.”
The announcement on improving the home buying process follows previous proposals on cutting out abuses of leasehold, protections for renters and a crackdown on unfair managing agents.

Reaction of Which?

Consumer organisation Which? gave its reaction to the launch of the call for evidence:
“Buying a home can be one of the most stressful experiences in life, with sales often taking too long or falling through with some consumers losing substantial sums of money,” commented Alex Neill, Which? Managing Director of Home Products and Services.
“The current home buying process is outdated and flawed,” he added. “The Government must put consumers first, ensuring that estate agents deliver a better service for both home-buyers and sellers and that the conveyancing process is simplified.”

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