In April 2018, The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government responded to the call for evidence on improving the home buying and selling process. Solicitors are now expected to find a fine balance between a quick, cost effective and less stressful transaction for their clients.
The Ministry recognises three main areas in need of improvement:
- A better consumer experience
- Accelerating the conveyancing process
- A reduction in failed transactions
Ignorance might be bliss, but not in conveyancing. One of the key strategies for perfecting client care is “improving the consumer understanding of the process and making it more transparent”. In this regard, estate agents’ involvement is recognised as problematic. In order to tackle the current lack of professional standard requirement in the industry, the Ministry points out a need for introducing further estate agent regulations, which ambitiously aim to affect the whole of Great Britain. Greater transparency around referral fees should be a minimum. The aim is a standardised approach, where the customers are made aware of any commercial arrangements before they enter into an agreement. The focus is on enabling sellers and buyers to make an informed choice about who to instruct. The Ministry further commented on the possibility of a complete ban of referral fees and the likely impact this might have. However, there is “no clear cut answer”, as weighing the pros and cons should include consideration of the whole sector, not just the position of the individual sellers and buyers.
Conveyancing needs to be brought into line with the quick pace of technology. Conveyancers are encouraged to “make more use of the digital technology” and requesting as much information as possible from their clients from the outset of the transaction. The Ministry points out that buyers will benefit from a “property passport” – a comprehensive database for the property, before placing an offer. Tackling prolonged leasehold enquiries is also of primary importance. The Ministry calls for a need of fixed time frames and minimum fees for the provision of leasehold information, and potential encouragement of management companies to make this information available electronically. Local authorities are also criticised for delaying local search results, when their turnaround time should be ten working days.
Finally, the Ministry believes that, by introducing reservation agreements, the risk of gazumping will be reduced. However, no legislative steps will be taken to ban this.