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Speeding up the home buying process

Have your say on how to speed up property transactions

With just over five weeks to go until the Law Commission’s consultation on home buying closes, there is a growing debate among property professionals about the best ways to speed up the home-moving process in England and Wales.

As part of its 14th programme of law reform, the commission has identified the way homes are bought and sold as a potential area for improvement. Citing the process as “slow, complex, and opaque”, it has highlighted the significant upfront costs that buyers incur before they can be certain that a sale will go through.

The commission has said that reforms could help make the housing market more efficient and enable conveyancers to offer accurate and timely advice.

Reforms can’t come soon enough, with recent research showing that the buying and selling process can take up to 20 weeks or longer in England and Wales. 

Have your say on how to speed up property transactions

With just over five weeks to go until the Law Commission’s consultation on home buying closes, there is a growing debate among property professionals about the best ways to speed up the home-moving process in England and Wales.

As part of its 14th programme of law reform, the commission has identified the way homes are bought and sold as a potential area for improvement. Citing the process as “slow, complex, and opaque”, it has highlighted the significant upfront costs that buyers incur before they can be certain that a sale will go through.

The commission has said that reforms could help make the housing market more efficient and enable conveyancers to offer accurate and timely advice.

Reforms can’t come soon enough, with recent research showing that the buying and selling process can take up to 20 weeks or longer in England and Wales. 

Would upfront information help?

Over the past couple of months, there had been speculation about the return of home information packs (HIPs), which were scrapped in 2010 – but there are no plans to re-introduce them.

 

Speaking to The Law Society Gazette, law commissioner Professor Nick Hopkins said that the idea was to take “a fresh look at how to do what HIPs were trying to achieve but how to achieve that differently”.

Consumer group the HomeOwners Alliance (HOA) estimates that more than £400 million is wasted each year on property transactions that are not completed. It says that upfront information could save sellers wasting money on property searches, and surveys having to be repeated, but it acknowledges that the cost of upfront information would fall on buyers.

The Home Buying and Selling Group (HBSG), an informal group of property, legal and financial professionals, has been looking at streamlining the information needed at the start of the buying and selling process.

It says that upfront information from sellers would speed things up by providing information about the property as soon as it is advertised.

In March 2021, the HBSG published its Buying and Selling Property Information, or BASPI, dataset. This is a standardised set of data that can be completed by sellers so that potential buyers can get the information they need before making an offer.

When a sale is agreed, this information can then be shared with both the seller’s and the buyer’s conveyancers, the surveyor and the lender’s valuer. 

For the system to work, proptech companies and CRM providers need to get on board and add the questions on the form into their technology. That way, sellers can fill in all the information without it being duplicated. Estate agents can use this information to complete the material facts disclosure required by consumer legislation.

The HSBG told Photoplan that many tech companies are already adopting the provision of upfront information. Several have been in touch to use the BASPI dataset and schema and it is seeing more of that as start-ups look around for data standards.


Would digital conveyancing help?

The rush to beat the stamp duty holiday has only highlighted the pressure on conveyancers and property solicitors. 

Professor Hopkins told the Gazette that the commission would consider whether switching to digital conveyancing could speed up transactions. But he questioned whether it would be any quicker than paper-based conveyancing, adding that it didn’t see it as a “magic solution”. 

To give your views on upfront information, digitalisation of the home-buying process, and whether law reform is needed or whether the property market should take action itself, you can respond to the Law Commission’s consultation here.

The consultation ends on 31 July 2021.


Over the past couple of months, there had been speculation about the return of home information packs (HIPs), which were scrapped in 2010 – but there are no plans to re-introduce them.

 

Speaking to The Law Society Gazette, law commissioner Professor Nick Hopkins said that the idea was to take “a fresh look at how to do what HIPs were trying to achieve but how to achieve that differently”.

Consumer group the HomeOwners Alliance (HOA) estimates that more than £400 million is wasted each year on property transactions that are not completed. It says that upfront information could save sellers wasting money on property searches, and surveys having to be repeated, but it acknowledges that the cost of upfront information would fall on buyers.

The Home Buying and Selling Group (HBSG), an informal group of property, legal and financial professionals, has been looking at streamlining the information needed at the start of the buying and selling process.

It says that upfront information from sellers would speed things up by providing information about the property as soon as it is advertised.

In March 2021, the HBSG published its Buying and Selling Property Information, or BASPI, dataset. This is a standardised set of data that can be completed by sellers so that potential buyers can get the information they need before making an offer.

When a sale is agreed, this information can then be shared with both the seller’s and the buyer’s conveyancers, the surveyor and the lender’s valuer. 

For the system to work, proptech companies and CRM providers need to get on board and add the questions on the form into their technology. That way, sellers can fill in all the information without it being duplicated. Estate agents can use this information to complete the material facts disclosure required by consumer legislation.

 

The HSBG told Photoplan that many tech companies are already adopting the provision of upfront information. Several have been in touch to use the BASPI dataset and schema and it is seeing more of that as start-ups look around for data standards.


Would digital conveyancing help?

The rush to beat the stamp duty holiday has only highlighted the pressure on conveyancers and property solicitors. 

 

Professor Hopkins told the Gazette that the commission would consider whether switching to digital conveyancing could speed up transactions. But he questioned whether it would be any quicker than paper-based conveyancing, adding that it didn’t see it as a “magic solution”. 


To give your views on upfront information, digitalisation of the home-buying process, and whether law reform is needed or whether the property market should take action itself, you can respond to the Law Commission’s consultation here.

 

The consultation ends on 31 July 2021.

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