The current system of buying & selling property in the UK is an expensive time consuming mess which often only benefits solicitors and surveyors. Covid 19 has made an already frustrating process even slower and less efficient than normal. A large proportion of transactions fail and it’s time something was done about it.
These are my suggestions;
1) Anyone who wants to sell their property should have to provide an independent survey carried out to accepted standards within a set period of time before the property is listed for sale. This survey would be available to potential purchasers and their mortgage providers. Any buyer would be able to see exactly want they were geting and the mortgage provider would be able to make an offer of finance based on this document.
The current system slows things down because surveys happen after an offer is accepted. Problems are found, people re-negotiate or withdraw. A mortgage offer can be made more quickly because the survey is part of the sales pack and the mortgage company don’t have to send out a surveyor each time (there is currently a three week delay waiting for surveys to be carried out). Each property is surveyed once for each sale instead of multiple times if the property is not sold to the first person who makes an offer. The seller will recoup their costs when the sale happens.
2) When an offer is made the purchaser must demonstrate the money is available to complete the purchase – mortgage offer, cash or investments which can be realised within the time frame.
At the moment buyers can make an offer without really knowing whether they will be able to move to exchange let alone completion. This will ensure everyone can see exactly what the situation is before proceeding.
3) Once an offer has been accepted both parties have entered a contract which is legally binding with penalties if the sale fails.
This is in operation in Scotland and there is no reason it shouldn’t happen here. There could be insurance policies if people want to protect themselves against failure, but the aim is to make sure that once an offer is accepted there is no going back except in exceptional circumstances.
4) When the contract to buy/sell is agreed there is a standard time frame in which the sale must be completed. In some situations this may be varied if agreed by both parties, but it is written into the contract and once again there would be penalties if completion doesn’t happen.
This is another way to stop people being left in limbo waiting for things to happen. If the money is in place then there is no reason for a lengthy gap between agreeing the sale and completing.
5) Parties could be insured against failure to be able to complete the sale or there could be reasons written into law – loss of income, serious illness, death etc
6) Should stamp duty be paid by the seller rather than the buyer?
I’m not sure about this, but it would probably be a good idea to consider it a part of the process.
This is a heartfelt plea – we have been trying to sell my mum’s house and have fallen victim to someone messing us about at every stage. What started out as an apparently straightforward process has turned into a stressful convoluted series of lurches from hope to despair and it’s all so unnecessary.
The government has set about reforming the planning system which is a good thing , but a lot more people buy and sell houses than want planning permission. If this was sorted out there would be a lot of very grateful people in the country, except maybe solicitors and surveyors!