England to get a new house sale agreement to speed up the buying process

The Government is working on a new house sale agreement for England which is set to make the process faster and avoid sales of homes falling through.

It will be trialled later this year, Housing Minister Heather Wheeler told the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) annual conference.

The aim is to develop a standard reservation agreement and officials are working with the industry led Home Buying and Selling Group and there could be compensation for those who lose money as a result of failed sale.

Wheeler pointed out that research from the Department for Business shows that 70% of buyers and 66% of sellers thought their sale wouldn’t go through to completion, even after the offer was 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.

‘But I also don’t want people pulling out without consequences, just because they’ve now decided they don’t like the avocado bathroom suite. When this happens, it can take a whole chain down,’ she explained.

‘We want to increase people’s commitment by ensuring that they’ve got some skin in the game. While an agreement can’t compensate the emotional stress of a failed transaction, people should be able to recover their costs,’ she added.

She also pointed out that Government research shows that 50% of buyers and 70% of sellers would have been prepared to enter into a legal agreement, if they had known it existed.

‘We’re commissioning behavioural insight research to help us design an agreement that’s supported by consumers and industry alike, and we’ll be running a field trial later this year,’ Wheeler told the conference.

She also talked about others ways that the buying and selling process can be speeded up. She revealed that after writing to local authorities last year to set out expectations that they will turn around property searches within 10 working days, now more than 80% of local authorities are hitting this target with the quickest doing so in under a day.

‘We still have a way to go to speed things up, especially where leaseholds are concerned.
Having a leasehold property in the chain can add at least an extra week, due to difficulties getting information from freeholders and managing agents,’ she pointed out.

‘As it stands, there aren’t any guidelines around the provision of this information, leaving leaseholders at the mercy of freeholders, who can charge whatever they like and take as long as they like.

‘We’re changing this, setting out a timetable and fees for providing this information.
This will also include a fee to update this information, as I know conveyancers begin to get nervous when data starts getting old,’ she added.

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