Upfront information takes centre stage in conveyancing “roadmap”

Faulkner: A roadmap that will work

Expanding the amount of mandatory upfront information which must be provided by sellers when a property is marketed is a central part of the “roadmap” for the future of home moving drawn up by the influential Home Buying and Selling Group (HBSG).

The HBSG said it should be compulsory for sellers to provide property logbooks, property packs including searches and also possibly a “pre-marketing property survey” including gas and electricity checks.

In the discussion paper The Case for Change, the HSBG, a cross-industry group which advises the government, said buyers and sellers needed to be “on board” with the roadmap, because they might need “to agree to pay upfront for legal advice and property information to help smooth the process of buying and selling”.

The government should “mandate quality upfront information” including the “material information” already required by Trading Standards and “consider solutions such as property packs”, including searches, the title documents and plan, and the Buying and Selling Property Information (BASPI) form, developed by HBSG’s upfront information sub-group.

The government should also “mandate property logbooks for sellers and future buyers”, which have been compared to the logbooks people keep for cars.

Consumers should be sent, on a mandatory basis, revised ‘how to buy’, ‘how to sell’ and ‘how to lease’ government guides, providing “consistent, easy to read, consumer-led advice”, in the same way that agents and landlords have to prove they have supplied tenants with the ‘how to rent’ guide.

In a further step the government should consult on “pre-marketing property surveys, similar to the checks suggested for the private rented sector Property MOT, which require a gas and electric safety certificate”.

The HBSG called for ‘one source of truth’ that could be “supplied once and relied upon by everyone in the home-moving process through the digitalisation of property data via the property data trust framework”, a set of tech tools designed to create a common language for property transactions which the group launched last December.

There should also be “single digital identity verification” for sellers and buyers.

Estate agents should be regulated “to ensure all buyers and sellers are cared for by qualified agents who can be trusted with their money and home security details”.

The HBSG said the roadmap would “dramatically reduce the time it takes for buyers and sellers to move home, reduce fall throughs and aid a successful completion day which means everyone has access to their new home by 1pm”.

Kate Faulkner, chair of the HBSG, said: “We have worked hard to identify all the issues by working with trade and professional bodies, ombudsman, regulators, and redress schemes from all sectors involved in the home-moving process, as well as government and importantly, practitioners, from small independent companies through to franchises and corporates.

“It’s an incredibly difficult job to secure support and agree on the best way forward for such a diverse industry, but by putting the consumer front and centre, we think we have a roadmap that will work.”

Rob Hailstone, chief executive of the Bold Legal Group, which had hundreds of conveyancing law firm members, added: “My personal view is that, on the whole, transactions are far too lengthy and stressful for all involved for a myriad of reasons, some of which are being considered in the discussion paper.

“The most controversial point is probably the requesting of mandation of up-front information.”

Mr Hailstone said that, although he did not believe mandation was “coming any time soon”, as a former provider of home information packs, he did believe that upfront information, with conveyancer involvement, would help improve the process.

A conference heard last month that mandation did not seem to be on the government’s agenda.

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