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Propertymark makes case to parliamentary committee about making home buying and selling process fairer

Timothy Douglas, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Propertymark, presented evidence to the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee, chaired by Clive Betts MP, on 13 May 2024 regarding the obstacles to improvements, and the regulation of property agents.

According to Mr Douglas, regulation is viewed as a crucial step towards enhancing the buying and selling process because consumers will then feel reassured that an agent will provide a decent service, especially if an agent has not joined a professional body.

Regulation would also to contribute to the enactment of other steps such as leasehold and renters reform, Douglas argued.

New entrants should have minimum qualifications to join the property industry, alongside compulsory ongoing professional development, to acquire the appropriate knowledge to complete the homebuying and selling process properly and continually update their skills throughout their career.

Poor services can be removed from the sector through a universal Code of Practice and a more coordinated approach to redress and complaints handling.

Propertymark’s position paper, The Future of Home Buying and Selling, formed the basis of the professional body’s evidence to the Committee, which was informed by member discussion groups that examined issues with the current system and possible answers.

There are too many fall throughs due to the UK’s outdated and inefficient homebuying and selling process, with failed transactions costing consumers £260 million annually, especially when the UK’s system is compared to Australia’s, Norway’s, and the USA’s. Furthermore, estate agents and conveyancers also lose £1 billion, and approximately 4 million working days annually.

There are substantial variations in how a property sale is completed, and numerous Propertymark members have expressed legal and conveyancing firms behave differently and have different expectations of an agent when working with them.

Combined guidance covering property agents, conveyancers, lenders, and any other stakeholders involved in the process, will help to enhance this by stating clear roles and expectations and improving coordination between organisations.

To this day, property transactions still generate an average of 130 documents. With data being hard to access, promoting services to allow all parties to work on documents together and be able to access them in real-time will help permit organisations to cooperate more effectively throughout the process. Improving Land Registry data and removing the post code lottery in efficiency of local authority searches are vitally important for agents and would help speed up the home buying and selling process.

Propertymark was a founding member of the Digital Property Market Steering Group, and key messages from its latest work discovered that developing an action list to remove paper-based processes and witness rapid adoption of digital ID and secure e-signatures would help speed up the process.

There also needs to be an overarching strategy from the UK Government for housing that sets out the future policy direction across multiple tenures and government departments.

Timothy Douglas, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Propertymark, said:

“Estate agency is the only part of the home buying and selling process that is unregulated. Not only does this disadvantage consumers, it leaves the industry vulnerable to economic crime, with an estimated £6.7bn of dirty money invested in UK property over the last eight years.

“For the many good agents operating in the sector, the lack of clear regulation leads to challenges such as the restricted access to pooled client accounts reported by our members, which place added pressures on their business.

“With significant new legislation for both the Private Rented Sector and leasehold moving through both Houses of Parliament, it has never been more vital that the property professionals who are essential to its implementation are supported to gain the necessary competencies and those who will hinder the raising of standards are prevented from working in the sector.

“The industry wants regulation and consumers need it – the property sector needs the UK Government to summon the political will to make effective change.”