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How do we fix the homebuying and selling process? We want to hear from you

The home buying and selling process – at least in England and Wales – is currently not fit for purpose. The process is too uncertain, takes too long and money is wasted when transactions fail to complete. We look at what can be done to improve the system.

2 minute read

home buying and selling

The homebuying and selling process is long, complicated and costly. We estimate that over £400million is wasted every year from property purchases that don’t end up completing. We see gazundering, gazumping, collapsing chains and one in three sales fall through. When you find a property and make an offer, you instruct a conveyancer and a surveyor and make a mortgage application. However, neither the buyer or seller are legally obliged to progress with the transaction, so if and when someone in the chain pulls out, costs have been incurred. 

Here at the HomeOwners Alliance we’ve been campaigning for years to improve the system. So what can be done to make buying and selling properties more consumer-friendly? We want to hear from you. 

Reservation Agreements 

Since 2018 we have been calling for “Reservation Agreements.”. This is a legally binding document signed at the point the price is agreed, to ensure both the home buyer and seller commit to being “genuine” to proceed with the transaction. If one party was to pull out, for whatever reason, they would then be obliged to pay the other side £1000, to pay towards their costs. 65% of UK adults supported the introduction of reservation agreements as a way for both sides to show commitment to the transaction.  The government conducted some initial research pre-pandemic, but it looks like this project has been stalled. 

More upfront property information

A major problem with the system is when you are considering buying a property you are given very little details about the property.  It isn’t until you’ve paid for the property searches that you find out key information about the property which, if known earlier, may have influenced your decision to offer or at what price. Plus many properties are being surveyed over and over again, which is great business for the property surveyors but isn’t efficient or cost effective. 

A new initiative that is gaining traction is to make as much information available to buyers before they put an offer on a property – including title deeds and information regarding neighbouring developments. But this means that the seller will likely need to gather this information at their own cost. The Home Buying and Selling Group and the Conveyancing Association are keen to hear your views and would love for you to complete their survey, it has 10 simple questions and takes less than two minutes to complete. The survey closes on 20th July 2021.

We need your help

If you have just experienced the home buying and selling process, or maybe you’re about to embark on the journey, we would love to hear about your experience. Would you be interested in more property upfront information, or do you like the idea of reservation agreements? Do you have any other suggestions or ideas? 

Please leave your thoughts below to help us inform our future campaigns and research. 

Leave a comment (8)* Required

  1. Fix Home MovingFix Home Moving

    Since the dematerialisation of deeds in 2003 there are no longer deeds packets held by lenders or solitictors which means that when a property is sold the property histry has to be recreated everytime. Before 2003 the property lawyer could look through the old deeds package to provide the information to the buyer and transactions took half the time. If the seller produced all the information on listing, the title, planning, searches and a condition report that the buyer could enter into a binding offer once they have a decision in principle from their mortgage lender. No more fall throughs, no more gazzumping. Why we spend time posting documents backwards and forwards is beyond me… everything should be digital like in banking or insurance.

  2. Ramona MetcalfeRamona Metcalfe

    There needs to be more legal protection for sellers. Last month, I eventually sold my house to a buyer (bottom of a chain of four) who failed to complete several times, meaning that I became potentially liable to my onward purchase sellers, and their onward purchase sellers, for deposit, costs and damages, through no fault of my own. The buyer was a property investor, a limited company, who seemed to be juggling loans, after having told us he was a ‘cash buyer’. The delays he said were because he was ‘buying several other properties at the same time’. My conveyancer had no prior experience of this situation, and I had to seek alternative legal advice. I was told to wait it out, because it would be unlikely I would ever recover costs from the buyer. Our lives were on hold for a month, removal costs wasted, time taken off work etc, not to mention the stress and uncertainty of whether we would actually be able to sell, and move home or not, and who would foot the bill if we didn’t. The buyer did buy in the end, one month late. It was all too easy for this buyer to let us all down several times, and in the end we were only refunded nominal expenses, despite myself and several other people being caused a lot of grief! Despite being under contract to complete, this buyer could have walked away from the sale afterwards and only lost his 5% deposit, whereas we could have been stranded in the old home, having to start the process all over again.

  3. Eric LeggeEric Legge

    The seller should have to pay for the property survey and the conveyancing, which can be added to the selling price and the deal should be agreed like any other sale by signing a contract of sale. Why should the buyer have to get a solicitor to do the conveyancing when the seller’s solicitor could handle everything. The seller would have to allow the buyer to check that the seller’s conveyancer has a good reputation.

  4. Marcia McGrailMarcia McGrail

    I have just experienced the despair of a sale falling through post-survey; no reason given. I have a new property lined up but this glitch puts that in jepardy…a universal property file with Land Registry title deeds, up-to-date flood etc report, EPC, independent survey (my previous surveyor missed blatant woodworm) would speed up the legal side & a reservation agreement would stop people taking the mick.

  5. ToniMToniM

    OOOOOH YESSSS! The current process is SO broken!

    We started the process in earnest once we had an offer, so we could finally view other houses… and it’s taken SIC MONTHS from our receiving a solid offer to our NEARLY being able to complete, in a chain with THREE links. We do not require a mortgage, and the vendors are buying a vacant property.

    We sent all the TA6 information in 7th March, and all the info on the solar panels the following day…
    The queries and demands for Indemnity Policies and Statutory Declarations took TWO MONTHS – one of them more like two and a half! – to come back… and the solar panels query followed a request for the spreadsheet we sent to be resent in Excel format – because we had sent it in Apple Numbers format, accidentally. That suggests the solictor had not even LOOKED at our replies until at least 7 weeks later!

    Our young first time buyers will be HOMELESS, having had to end their fixed term tenancy, to avoid having to renew for another term and pay penalties for moving before the new expiry date, in spite of our flaging this to everyone ever more frantically, and poiting out this was unfair, and unnecessary, as the demands their own solicitor was making were mere nit-picking.


    My own personal advice to the Government would be to look at outher Countries conveyancing system, compare them, research the length of the process, the number of collapsed chains, the satisfaction levels of housebuyers there and add the best features to a list oranked by essential > desirable > nice to have

  6. Peter DavisPeter Davis

    We are nearly there selling and buying a home, but it has taken 15 weeks, this is too long. 46 years ago when we last moved it took 7 weeks, progress eh?

    The conveyancing process is broken.

  7. PeterPeter

    The only way to resolve the escalating house price crisis is to change the way houses are marketed. For a full explanation of why this is, please search on The Hendry Solution.

  8. Phill HewittPhill Hewitt

    Upfront information is key to make informed decisions. Estate agent hide behind disclaimers far too often. This is particularly relevant to leasehold information and indeed property portals and now suggesting this should be compulsory. I got caught out by this where the property I was buying was leasehold but the carparking space was on a separate lease with 66 years remaining and did not find out until some way into the transaction . There also needs to be recognition that if an in-depth survey has been done, this has more detail that a Mortgage survey (which may even be virtual) and thus is more accurate. Sellers need to take this on board if there are discrepancies on price.

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