Faster and less stressful house buying?



Communities Secretary Sajid Javid launched an eight-week review, saying he wanted to "hear from the industry" on how to streamline home-buying.

Proposals include ways of locking in deals and stopping gazumping where sellers accept higher offers at the last minute. Ministers will look at schemes such as "lock-in agreements" as a means of building confidence in the housing chain, which often collapse leaving those involved disappointed and out of pocket.

The review will also look at ways of speeding up the process of home-buying, and will consider how to advise home buyers and sellers so they are sale-ready. Mr Javid called on estate agents, mortgage lenders and solicitors to share their experiences of the housing market - in order to "help save people money and time so they can focus on what matters - finding their dream home".

He said: "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. "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. "

Ed Foster, Chief Executive of County Solicitors, comments "In short, it won’t work unless there’s a complete change in the law and we move towards the 'Scottish system'. The reality is that, in this country, we can go out, look at and offer on a property before we’ve had a survey undertaken or applied for a mortgage. In Scotland, you do all that before you make a formal offer; and then, once the offer is made and accepted, you’ve effectively exchanged contracts."

"The suggestion of an exclusivity or 'lock in' agreement can only be successful if the onus is on the buyer to force the exchange of contracts within the agreed period and if the seller has to exchange if asked; otherwise, either party can just wait for the period to expire and then withdraw anyway. On that basis, you’re looking at something like a short-term option agreement, which is even more difficult (it involves an application to register the agreement against the title of the property itself at the Land Registry)."

"So while these efforts are merit worthy, there is no miracle solution; it will require detailed legislation from Parliament and this in itself is unlikely to bear fruit."