The government says it wants estate agents to become “professionalised” as a way of improving the housing market and reducing the number of sales that fall though each year.
Ministers say delays and complications during the process of buying or selling a home can cause unnecessary financial and emotional stress to customers. This uncertainty can lead to delayed decisions and contribute to over one quarter of house sales falling through annually.
Government research shows that more than 6 out of 10 buyers and sellers have experienced stress, and around a quarter of sellers said they would use a different estate agent if they were to go through the process again.
Estate agents will now be required to hold a professional qualification. Other measures to make the system easier, faster and more transparent include:
• encouraging the use of voluntary reservation agreements to help prevent sales falling through and crack down on gazumping
• setting a timeline for local authority searches so buyers get the information they need within 10 days
• requiring managing agents and freeholders to provide up-to-date lease information for a set fee and to an agreed timetable which will end the current situation where leaseholders are at the mercy of freeholders and their agents
• strengthening the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team so they can carry out more enforcement activity, including banning agents.
Housing Secretary Sajid Javid said: “For far too long buyers and sellers have been trapped in a stressful system full of delays and uncertainty.
“We’re going to put the consumers back in the driving seat. We will require estate agents to hold a qualification so that people are no longer at risk from a minority of ‘rogue agents’ and can trust the process when buying or selling their home.”
The government will now consult on how to introduce higher professional standards for estate agents.
Please contact us if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any of the legal aspects of buying or selling a home.