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Speakers Corner: E-Homebuying forum Chairman

publication date: Oct 15, 2009
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Mark RiddickOver the last few weeks, the Party Conference season has seen our political leaders once again set out their policies for homebuying and selling reform, pronouncements which are drawn into even sharper focus with the General Election just around the corner. We’ve heard these types of speeches countless times over the past decade and, more often than not, policies have been misguided or poorly implemented as a result of a lack of commercial input or subsequently skewed by industry vested interests.

It is now clear that, whatever the outcome of the next election, change is inevitable. I believe in order for us not to become the victims of change, the property industry must take the initiative and present Government with a united vision for a modernised, more efficient and more transparent future of homebuying.

A major impediment to improving the property transaction is the fact that our industry is actually a collection of separate professions whose voices are often competing – despite the fact we are all working towards the same end goal. Add to this the multitude of government departments, agencies and regulators that we must contend with and it is little wonder things haven’t improved. However, other industries have managed to grasp new developments and transform the processes in their marketplace – surely now is the time for us to do the same?

The E-Homebuying Forum was set up 18 months ago for this very purpose; to try to prevent the waste of time, effort and money on misguided or skewed initiatives and to bring faster certainty to homebuying through delivering greater transparency, greater efficiency and greater commitment. Our member businesses, which span the process from marketing to completion, share the view that change is inevitable and desirable, and thus want to ensure that they are in a position where their views are taken into account.

The phrase ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ certainly doesn’t apply to our industry. It is no secret that in England and Wales it typically takes eight to ten weeks from acceptance to exchange, one of the longest average transaction times in Europe. Approximately one in four property transactions will fall through, costing the industry an estimated £360 million per year – almost £1 million a day!

E-Homebuying ForumStatistics such as these should shake us into action. Whilst it is obvious that we cannot control all factors that can lead to a failed transaction, we can look at measures to decrease the time between offer and exchange. One of the key elements to removing these delays is greater transparency through efficient information flow. This would effectively remove uncertainties meaning that buyers and sellers will become more certain more quickly that their property transaction will be completed.

In the coming months, the Forum will continue working to ensure future government policy is formulated with real and representative private sector engagement. We are currently taking steps to facilitate the delivery of our Blueprint for the Future of Homebuying¸ published earlier this year, through action groups made up of Forum members and interested parties. Our group on leasehold information provision, for example, is currently working with the Association of Residential Managing Agents (ARMA) to develop a standard form for pre-contract leasehold inquiries. Our estate agents and conveyancers group is drafting a charter establishing minimum standards of communication which we believe will deliver greater efficiency and engender greater co-operation between the two parties. Our property search group has set out solutions to overcome blockages in the system, which it will shortly reveal.

We call on those companies who are not yet part of the Forum and feel frustrated by the lack of positive change to join us as we play a key part in shaping the future of the home buying and selling marketplace.

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