Isn’t it time we reformed the home buying process?
This is a legacy post from the findaproperty.com blog which is now maintained as an archive within the Zoopla blog. Links have been preserved.
If the home buying process were applied to anything other than bricks and mortars, there would be protests.
Buyers and sellers losing thousands of pound to a whim; weeks and sometimes months of hard work being lost to a simple change of mind; buying chains collapsing unnecessarily. None of this would be tolerated when buying cars, washing machines or computers. So why homes, which are worth so much more?
Decades after our property ‘conveyancing’ process was established, nothing has been done about improving it – except the Labour government’s ill-planned (if you’re charitable) and lamentable (if you’re not) attempt to tackle the problem with Home Information Packs.
So what can be done? Most of the problems of home moving are about the so-called ‘exchange black hole’ – that stomach-clenching period of uncertainty between offer and exchange of contracts.
It’s when buyers can say they’ll buy a property without committing a penny or ounce of moral currency to the sale and then pull out without notice, drop their offer price at the last moment (gazundering) or the vendor raises the price very late in the day (gazumping).
FindaProperty.com thinks it’s about time to have another go at nailing this and we’re glad to hear Guardian journalist Hilary Osborne has also taken up the cause recently. The Con/Lib coalition seem at best reluctant to get involved, and everyone else is a bit jaded about the prospects of success.
But if everyone shouted loud enough something could be done.
And it’s not as if we don’t have successful systems to gaze at longingly. In France buyers commit to a property at a much earlier stage than in England and Wales. As soon as a price is agreed, a verbal agreement is soon followed up with a written one drawn up by a notaire. While in England and Wales it takes, on average, 14 weeks to buy a property, the process in France is much faster because the contracts are signed earlier.
Countries like Australia, New Zealand and of course our northern neighbours in Scotland, offer viable alternatives too – as does the US where home buying and selling is made neat, tidy and fast by the use of a buying agent who acts openly for the buyer, while the contract at point of offer avoids time wasters, gazumping and delays for all.
The issue is already on the agenda in the UK through the E-Homebuying Forum, led by Sir Bryan Carsberg, a former director of the Office of Fair Trading. He wants to bring in a ‘preliminary contract’ and deposit which would punish either party if they pulled out without good reason.
The E-Homebuying Forum has also floated the idea of a pre-offer survey – a quick way for the buyer to get more information about the property they’re interested in before an offer is made.
But that smells too much like another HIPs system, some say. So what do you think – have you been gazumped, gazundered and generally worn thin by our buying process. Tell us here – shout loud – either leave a comment or vote in our one-click survey.