“People research more when buying a car than they do when they buy a house” according to Emma Cooke, Policy & Information Manager at National Trading Standards, who joins Jeremy Raj, Irwin Mitchell’s Head of Residential Property and Kate Faulkner, owner of Propertychecklists.co.uk and well-known commentator on residential property, in an Irwin Mitchell podcast just launched.
The three experts discuss the implications of recent announcements from NTSELAT as it strives to improve the availability of upfront information in the home buying and selling process ( the work also includes lettings). These announcements should “shake up” the residential property industry and instigate “major culture changes to come”.
The debate follows the National Trading Standards announcement last month that by the end of May 2022 all property listings will need to contain the property’s council tax band or rate, the property price and tenure information (for sales). Data fields for the information will start to appear on property portals over the coming weeks.
As the new data fields for tenure, price and council tax are added to portals, those left empty by an agent will be flagged on the listing so that consumers can see what is missing. This will link to advice on why that information is important and how it may be obtained.
These changes represent the first phase of a three-phase project by the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team (NTSELAT), in partnership with industry leaders and the UK’s major property portals- and will define what constitutes material information for property listings.
Two further phases are being developed, which will incorporate further material information such as restrictive covenants, flood risk and other specific factors that may impact certain properties. These requirements will be announced later in the year.
National Trading Standards wants all material information to be mandatory on property listings once all three phases of the project are complete. At that stage, agents will need to include all the required information before it is listed on a property portal.
All three speakers at our podcast agreed this clarification is important and long overdue. By the end of stage three, material information that should be declared will include anything that might influence the buyer’s decision to purchase the property such as parking details (permit or not), heat sources for the property (such as solar panels), whether the property is listed or not etc. A full list of criteria is being put together. Omissions of material information will be considered as seriously as providing misleading information.
Emma Cooke says, “We want to make sure consumers know all they need to know when buying a property. Obviously, what is important may differ between different people, which is why we are working with industry representatives who represent both agents as well as buyers and sellers. Our work has the ultimate consumer in mind. Our list has been put together because of discussions with the steering group representatives and has been ongoing for over 2 years. Agents asked us, and continue to ask us, what is material information- they wanted clarity because there is no prescribed list in the CPRs. We are trying to give some clarity through this work for agents as well as buyers and sellers”.
The new regime will be policed by NTS and local TS as they do currently, investigating any misleading or missing information. A breach of the CPRs could lead to an unlimited fine and/or up to 2 years in prison, as determined by a judge.
However overall NTS wants to work with the industry and has received positive feedback to its announcements.
Kate Faulkner owner of Propertychecklists.co.uk said, “ It’s shocking how often so little information is provided for house sales, and this is particularly difficult for leasehold buyers. There has been no excuse for housing developers and associations to not be fully transparent up front about leasehold information and we believe once that becomes standard practice, we will see a reduced fall through of deals.”
All speakers agreed that the use of portals, which consumers increasingly use to begin their house transactions journey has reduced the personal contact with agents and this has made these new standards in the buying and selling process essential.
They also believe the new process could speed up housing transactions, particularly if sellers get their legal work done up front to avoid further delays.
And all three believed there is an important education message to get out- to sellers that they need this information to sell their properties, to agents to facilitate this process and to consumers to know what they have the right to know.
As Jeremy Raj concluded, “We are looking at a significant shift in the home buying and selling process. It’s an exciting time and long overdue and it will be interesting to see how the industry adapts to these new demands.”
Listen to the podcast here.