“Buying a house is like a game of poker”
For a number of weeks, we have been running a Home Buying & Selling Consumer Survey – it can be accessed here: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/howdoweimprovehomemoving and I would urge anyone active in the property market to share it with your consumer audience, your networks, through your social media, indeed through any consumer-facing channel in order to help us deliver the most robust statistics and feedback we can.
As part of the survey we ask consumer respondents to provide their thoughts on what the process has been like for them and what changes they would make.
In the latest batch of responses, the above comment was one that jumped out, because it essentially suggests the process is based on not revealing the strength of your hand, not being transparent about your position, being uncertain that you will eventually ‘win’, and potentially being in a position where you lose money when at the start it looked like you had the best ‘hand’.
In that sense, the consumer says it seems to encourage parties to be dishonest or duplicitous, which of course is not the case for every single purchase, but I think we will all have plenty of examples to call upon to suggest that far too many cases end up a long way away from a positive consumer outcome.
So, what can be done and what do consumers want in order to deliver a much more honest and transparent experience? To deliver greater certainty? To not put them in a position where they continually feel another player might reveal a stronger hand, or where they are ‘bluffed’ into putting too much into the pot and still coming up short?
Perhaps unsurprisingly there are a series of measures that consumers agree would improve the process. Almost overwhelmingly, they believe the provision of upfront information when the property is put up for sale is a good idea, so that they have transparency at the front end, not somewhere down the line when they’re emotionally invested, or have made an offer, or obviously both.
What is also hugely important and encouraging is there’s a significant level of support for the Buying & Selling Property Information Form (BASPI) which covers boundaries/any alterations to the property/leasehold and freehold information, service details, etc.
Essentially, it’s all the information that you would be provided with upfront so you can make a decision about the viability of that property for your needs and you’re aware immediately of any potential issues. It means you can offer on the property fully cognisant of such issues and be much more confident in what you are offering on, rather than finding out later that the property is not what you thought it was.
Also, overwhelmingly, consumers think that it should be the seller that pays for the provision of this information. Now this might be construed by some as buyers saying sellers should pay, but let’s not forget that the majority of people involved in the process at any one time are both buyers and sellers.
Indeed, 96% of our respondents have moved house, or are moving at the moment, and they are still saying it should be the seller who pays. It is homeowners in general who are seeing it from both perspectives and coming to the conclusion that, in this process, upfront information is vital and it should be the seller that pays for it.
This also follows into the early use of a conveyancer in this process – again the vast majority believe it would be of benefit to both the buyer and the seller to have a property lawyer obtain all the required information and review the legal title, prior to the marketing of that property.
Other suggestions on how to improve the process can be fed into some of the ongoing measures that are currently being explored including ensuring parties are financially-qualified to proceed, having chain transparency, etc.
From data we have received from TwentyCI, approximately six to seven thousand transactions fall through every single week. However, in the lead up to the stamp duty holiday deadline at the end of June, it is believed 124,000 homes which were already sold subject to contract did not complete prior to the end of the month. That is a significant number of disappointed parties, a significant number which might have been avoided with a different approach.
It’s our belief that we can get the current time to transact down from the 20-weeks-plus it is now to 12 weeks, and that’s just with upfront information gathered at listing. How many of those 124,000 transactions might have completed with such a 12-week transaction time? We may never know but it’s certain that consumers want to see change and want to see their home-buying experience move away from a potential game of poker to one where everyone’s cards are visible on the table right from the start.
Beth Rudolf is Director of Delivery at the Conveyancing Association (CA)