Why government changes will help people buy and sell better in the future

publication date: Apr 9, 2018
author/source: Kate Faulkner, Property Expert and Author of Which? Property Books

Good news for property buyers and sellers?

For years there hasn’t always been a great working relationship between the government and the property industry. As a result, lots of changes may have been made but not all have been successful.

Now, however, I genuinely believe both the government and the property industry are doing a much better job at working together to help make buying, selling, renting and letting much easier.

Here are my thoughts on the key changes announced which will make a real difference – and why.

Increased regulation of estate agents, letting agents and managing agents
Currently anyone can offer properties for sale or to let – with few repercussions if they do it badly and little respect if they do it well.

Some agents ensure their staff are well trained on the legal, ‘technical’ side and in consumer service. However, some aren't, especially letting/managing agents or landlords who need to know more than 400 rules and regulations to let a property legally and safely.

Other industries involved in buying, selling and letting require qualifications and are, rightly, heavily regulated, such as those involved in lending and legals. Others, such as surveyors, require qualifications.

Having an agent that abides by the law and has to properly qualified will, in my view, mean a good proportion of poor agents will sell up or go under and the rest will all be trained to a good level.

Better regulation and enforcement
It amazes me that a government can introduce a law to help consumers without requiring, by law, funding for a campaign that raises awareness, monitors if the law is working and then provides enough money for enforcement.

Too often I’ve seen laws introduced but not enforced – for example agents belonging to a redress scheme or landlords needing a licence to let. In my view, this has resulted in lots of laws which have become a ‘tick box’ to say ‘we’ve done something’, rather than measuring the impact they have had, if any.

For more information here’s a link to my TDS Report - What impact is enforcement of rules and regulations having on the private rented sector?showing how little impact laws have had so far.

That’s why it’s great news that the government has announced better regulation and a stronger National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team

More information before a property is advertised, especially leasehold
When I sell a home, I try to give the legal/conveyancing company all the information they need to progress my sale, I can, the day it goes on the market. This way the sales contract can be prepared within days of receiving an offer.

Even on a leasehold flat I sold a few years ago, because I knew what potential problems might arise beforehand and, having agreed an offer on the Wednesday, my contract was out within a week. That’s what good conveyancers/legal companies can do if they are given the information they need upfront.

I am lucky in that I know what is required and can get what I need; however, others won’t find it as easy, so requiring freeholders to make leasehold information available for a set fee could save months of time and stress for both sellers and buyers.

In addition, restricting ground rents in newly established leases of houses and flats to a peppercorn (zero financial value) is a great move, especially considering some of the issues of new build leasehold sales.

Problems with searches
Letting agents have been criticised for charging different fees and offering vastly different levels of service; as a result their ability to charge fees is being stopped. So I have found it quite hypocritical that there is a huge variation in the cost and time taken by different local authorities to provide search information to buyers, especially as they are pretty much providing the same product.

So it’s great that local authorities will be given a guideline of 10 days to turn around searches – a timescale I think is more than generous considering some are able to respond within a matter of days.

What else is needed?
These changes alone won’t work unless consumers are advised about them – on a regular basis. I think it’s great that the government’s guide on How to Rent has to be given to tenants now before they move in.

So I look forward to more guides on How to Buy, sell, let and lease and I’ll be working closely with the industry to ensure they advise their customers on what they need to do at every step to complete their property project successfully.

But the media needs to play its part, too, and make sure that consumers are regularly alerted to their rights and their responsibilities when they buy, sell, let or lease a property.

Any questions?
If I can help with any statistics, information, checklists, quotes etc on the up and coming changes and how consumers can carry out their property project successfully, please do contact me.

Choosing a letting agent - Belvoir Joining a landlord association - RLA 15 ways to speed up buying and selling legals - SLC


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