As a first time buyer I’ve seen what the home buying process needs.  And it’s this…

Lost money. Lost hope. Lost time.

If you’ve ever lost the house of your dreams, you’ll have lost these three things along the way. Trust me.

It could all be so different though, if properties were marketed with vital information upfront. The manifestoes are out but all parties have shockingly failed to commit to this vital change to the home buying process. The next Government must urgently pass legislation requiring sellers to honestly and accurately complete the Property Information Questionnaire before putting their home on the market.

Last year I pulled out of buying my first flat when Japanese Knotweed reared its head three months into the conveyancing. If I’d known there was an on-going treatment programme for it when I was looking around I wouldn’t have even offered. Its presence along with any boundary disputes or neighbour issues should all have been there for me to see before stepping in the door.

I lost around £800 in legal and searches fees. But I’m not the only one to lose out. Last year the Tories were supposedly so concerned about the £270 million we spend on buying houses that eventually fall through, their budget even committed to look at the process. Looking at their manifesto though, they don’t seem very committed.

Fortunately, consumer champions Which have picked up the ball. Their recent Consumer Agenda for Government wants the next Government to improve the home buying process. Joe public is keen for the government to prioritise home buying and selling as an issue, according to Which’s research. Young folk like me are especially keen.

Making the biggest financial investment in your life without knowing basic details like lease length and management company fees from the get-go is beyond a joke. That’s supply and demand for you though. While I’m waiting for responses to my 50 odd questions about the state of the property another less mindful buyer has slapped an offer down. At least that’s the great fear. And certainly one that stalked me this year when I started to look again for my own place.

I’ve just found a place though and have already started to fork out solicitor and surveyor fees to find out basic information that should have been available from day one. With another buyer sniffing around, I just couldn’t risk hitting the vendor with my very own Spanish inquisition. An interrogation wouldn’t be necessary though if more details on a property’s condition were available upfront. Such a change would certainly please the 70% of respondents to a recent YouGov survey who endorsed such an approach.

Home Information Packs (HIPs), I hear some scream.

Well, I’m not calling for these. Just answers to the questions in the Law Society’s TA6, 7 and 10 forms which are normally completed when conveyancing starts, and which come at no additional cost. It’s not much of an ask really; for sellers to complete these forms a bit earlier so buyers see (in writing) crucial details like parking arrangements or flooding problems. With the Conveyancing Association on-board through suggestions like E-Home reports and even Michael Gove recently discussing the validity of Labour’s HIP rationale on Radio 4, now’s the time to implement this change.

Alleviating some of the well documented stresses of home buying through a simple tweak would be beneficial to buyers, especially naïve first timers like me. There’d be less questions tossed back and forth between the different parties, saving time and frustration for all. Faith in estate agents could be restored as there would be less chance to hoodwink buyers into viewing unsuitable places. Recently, I pointlessly turned up to flats with tenants or low leases, both dealbreakers for me. With more disclosure upfront, sellers would also avoid having their hopes raised with people like me checking out places they’ll never buy.

Providing basic but crucial information before marketing a property won’t just bring much needed transparency, efficiency and professionalism to the whole home buying process. This subtle change will also enable buyer, seller and estate agent to start the conveyancing process with much more hope than I currently have.

 

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