the home buying and selling process, housing minister, Jeff Rooker,
- were aimed at modernising the current archaic and inefficient
system in England and Wales.
He told delegates at the National Association of Estate Agents
Conference that the current home buying process was shambolic and did
not look after the interests of consumers.
'Forty per cent of consumers are dissatisfied with the present
system, and there is huge wastage. Twenty-eight per cent of
transactions fail after an offer has been accepted. This causes
wasted expenditure of up to£1m a day and that is intolerable.
Sellers' Packs will make the home buying and selling process more
transparent, faster and consumer friendly. They will reduce the
stress and wasted costs suffered by hundreds of thousands of
consumers each year.'
The minister also warned that for everyone to benefit from sellers'
packs they had to be compulsory.
'Voluntary arrangements would not work because most transactions are
part of a chain. A single missing pack in the chain would cancel out
the benefits of all the others, and a compulsory scheme had to be
backed up by effective sanctions.'
The government will be bringing forward proposals for a civil
sanctions regime rather than, as was originally envisaged, criminal
1. The government is committed to making it easier for people buying
and selling homes in England and Wales through a new sellers' pack.
Introducing sellers' packs is a key part of a package of measures to
reform the home buying and selling process. Legislation to introduce
sellers' packs was introduced in the Homes Bill on 13 December 2000,
but was unable to complete its passage before Parliament was
dissolved for the General Election. Legislation will now be
reintroduced as part of the Housing Bill mentioned in the Queen's
2. Sellers' pack proposals are the outcome of extensive research into
the home buying and selling process, and a major consultation about
options for improvements. This research showed the home buying and
selling process in England and Wales is among the slowest in Europe,
is fraught with delays and is hugely wasteful - failure and delay
costs consumers up to£350m a year.
3. The problem is that under the present system key information
required to inform buyers' and sellers' decisions only becomes
available after terms have been negotiated and agreed. The packs will
address this by ensuring key information is available up front.
4. Sellers' packs are used in other countries and work well. There
are also several voluntary sellers' pack schemes operating
successfully in the UK.
5. The packs have to be compulsory to ensure every one can benefit
from them, since a voluntary scheme would not achieve the objective
of improving the process for the benefit of consumers. Most
transactions are part of a chain and a single missing pack in the
chain could cancel out the benefits of all the others.
6. A compulsory scheme requires effective sanctions. The Homes Bill
proposed criminal sanctions, as they offer the most effective
deterrent and are well precedented (local trading standards officers
already have similar enforcement duties under the Property
Misdescriptions Act 1991). However, in recognition of strong
opposition to criminal sanctions, the government is proposing an
alternative regime based on civil sanctions.
7. Most of the items in the pack are obtained at some stage under the
current process; sellers' packs will involve doing the same things
but more efficiently, and earlier in the process. Responsibility for
obtaining local searches and a home condition report will transfer
from the buyer to the seller, but since the majority of sellers are
also buyers these costs will usually be balanced by corresponding
savings. It is clear from information ODPM is receiving the industry
expects to be able to defer payment of all, or some of these costs.
The real financial benefit for buyers and sellers is that the
sellers' pack will help ensure hundreds of millions of pounds in
wasted costs, arising from failed transactions, are forced out of the
8. ODPM will shortly publish two consultation papers; one to
disseminate the results of research into the application of sellers'
packs to areas of low demand, and provide an opportunity for further
views; and the second to consider the detailed contents of the pack.
9. The government's main measures are:
- More information at the start of the process
Before putting a home on the market, the person marketing the house
will be required by law to put together a pack of standard
information for prospective buyers. At present, much of this
information is provided after an offer has been accepted, and any
delays mean it can take weeks to exchange contracts. Providing this
information up front will speed up the process, reducing uncertainty
and possible disappointment. The pack is likely to include copies of
the following documents, which the seller currently provides later in
- terms of sale;
- evidence of title;
- replies to standard preliminary enquiries made on behalf of buyers;
- copies of any planning, listed building and building regulations
consents and approvals;
- for new properties, copies of warranties and guarantees;
- any guarantees for work carried out on the property;
The seller will also be required to provide two additional items for
- replies to searches made of the local authority; and
- a home condition report based on a professional survey of the
property, including an energy efficiency assessment.
Also, for leasehold properties:
- a copy of the lease;
- most recent service charge accounts and receipts;
- building insurance policy details and payment receipts;
- regulations made by the landlord or management company; and
- memorandum and articlesof the landlord or management company.
- Better preparation by buyers
With the co-operation of lenders, conveyancers and estate agents,
home buyers are being encouraged to obtain 'in principle' mortgage
offers and to undertake other preliminary preparation before they
make an offer on a property.
- Faster mortgage offers and faster local authority searches
Lenders, local authorities and other service providers are being
called upon to ensure that sellers and buyers receive a fast and
- Better use of information technology
All the professions and other bodies involved in the home buying and
selling process are being encouraged to take full advantage of
advances in information technology to ensure that information can be
obtained and exchanged quickly and economically.
- The Land Registration Act 2002 has modernised the complex and
outdated land registration legislation and opened the way for
- Mortgage lenders being called upon to provide title deeds within 5
working days where original deed documents are requested by a
- Insurers are being encouraged to develop further and market more
widely insurance to protect buyers and seller's from gazumping,
gazundering and other problems; and
- The Consumers' Association and the professions have been asked to
work with the government as the detailed proposals are developed.
9. Copies of all key publications about proposals to reform the home
buying and selling process are available here.