Is the Government about to Overhaul the Estate Agency Industry?

The government has proposed measures to bring more professionalism and trust to the estate agency industry. Great! Belvoir already exceeds the standards of service the government is drafting.

You know how it is with estate agents. It’s the industry that people love to hate. For that you can blame the poor service and high fees of countless estate agents with low industry knowledge and slim regard for their customers. There are 20,000 estate agents across the UK and too many fail to meet the levels of professionalism that you are entitled to expect as a customer.

The government agrees.

That’s why they have announced plans to shake up the industry with a number of measures designed to bring more professionalism and quality to your experience as a customer. For Belvoir customers the happy and reassuring news is that we already exceed the standards of service that the government is considering introducing. Other estate agents? Not so much. Here are some of the main points from the government’s announcement.

Mandatory qualifications for all estate agents

Did you know that anyone can set up an estate agent? There’s no requirement to hold a formal industry qualification or professional accreditation. That’s partly why standards of service are so variable from one agent to the next. The government wants to address that and is discussing the introduction of mandatory industry qualifications for all estate agents.

Good call.

Here at Belvoir Cambridge we are already big on training and qualifications. If a new member of our property-related team joins us without a property-specific qualification, we pay for them to enrol on a course within twelve months. As a customer you can be sure that our advice is rooted in the latest market knowledge, regulatory compliance and best practice.

More transparency on referral fees

Another thing the government is calling for is more transparency on referral fees. That’s the money an estate agent receives from a solicitor or mortgage broker in exchange for recommending their services. The aim is for customers to feel more empowered in the transaction process and see that they are not being exploited by their estate agent.

Again, we are one step ahead at Belvoir Cambridge.

Securing a mortgage and completing conveyancing are crucial parts of most property transactions. We can recommend mortgage brokers or solicitors whose services we can vouch for. But only if customers are struggling to find their own. With conveyancing in particular we will always give you a choice of reputable organisations and show you exactly how much we receive as a referral fee from the business you choose to engage. The government also plans to make it easier for customers to choose their own conveyancers.

Either way, you are in control.

Government guides

There’s an awful lot to think about when you’re buying or selling a house. To help demystify the process for customers and inform them about what they can expect from an estate agent, the government is discussing plans to produce a buyer’s guide and a seller’s guide that are freely available.

Our own seller’s guide – packed with expert information and helpful tips – is currently underway and will be available soon.

Local authority search requests answered within ten working days

Delays in the buying/selling process aren’t always down to the estate agent! There’s a lot of variance between local authorities in the speed at which they reply to search requests – e.g. questions such as whether roads or footpaths adjoining a property are publically maintained. Tardy local authorities can add weeks to the conveyancing process. The government aims to change that by writing to all local authorities to lay out their expectation that search requests be answered within ten working days.

Reducing the amount of transactions that fall through

According to government figures, over a quarter of all residential property transactions fail before completion. That’s incredibly frustrating for sellers – and wastes the time of all involved. To help combat this problem the government wants to make the use of reservation agreements more widespread. These contracts are already used in high-value property transactions and increase the commitment between buyer and seller earlier in the process, providing more certainty on each side.

Of course there are a near-infinite number of reasons a sale could fall through. But it’s surprisingly common for a potential buyer to find they are unable to borrow as much from their mortgage lender as they anticipated. In response the government intends to raise awareness that buyers should obtain a Decision in Principle before they begin house-hunting. This is a certificate from a mortgage lender that sets out how much money they are prepared to lend to the buyer.

That’s something we’re already hot on at Belvoir Cambridge. We very rarely allow non-cash buyers to submit a formal offer without obtaining a Decision in Principle. That way our customers can be sure that any concrete offers they receive for their property are built on firm financial foundations.

Need some advice?

If you have any questions about the government’s proposed provisions, please feel free to contact me directly. Thinking of selling? Get a free market appraisal of your property with Belvoir Cambridge.

Emma Dighton
Regional Director
01223 352225

Emma Dighton is the Regional Director of Operations for Belvoir Peterborough, Stamford and Cambridge. Emma has worked in the industry for 10 years and is passionate about helping to create a stable and fair PRS whilst recognising that Property is a business venture for many and believes that it can be both if managed correctly. Emma is the voluntary local chair of the Peterborough National Landlords Association and sits on a working group to raise awareness and prevent organised crime and modern slavery in Cambridgeshire.

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