Government plans announced to professionalise the estate agency industry

The Government has unveiled plans to further regulate and to professionalise the estate agency industry.

Housing Secretary Sajid Javid announced last week his intentions to drive up industry standards and to bring an end to “rogue managing agents”.

Government research indicates that 62% of buyers and 69% of sellers have experienced stress during the conveyancing process, and 24% of sellers said that they would use a different estate agent if they went through the process again.  Nearly a third of buyers and sellers also expressed dissatisfaction with the other party’s solicitor (who is often recommended by the estate agents).

The new plans will require estate agents to obtain professional qualifications and to provide greater transparency about referral fees received from solicitors, mortgage brokers and surveyors.

Other measures are proposed to reduce stress for consumers, including the use of reservation agreements to crack down on gazumping (although the suggestion that these agreements would be voluntary does not fill me with confidence), and strengthening the power of Trading Standards to ban certain estate agents.

Another measure which would certainly seem to simplify the process is the proposed further regulation of managing agents.  At present, managing agents are able to charge a fee of their own choosing for providing information pertaining to the freehold and the management of the building – information which the seller must pay for, and which the buyer cannot proceed without.  The proposal is to bring in a set fee and an agreed timescale for this information.

The Government have indicated an intention to create guides on how to buy and sell, and to work with consumer groups and the Land Registry to be better able to indicate the performance of conveyancers, and to digitise the process further in the interests of speed.

Like the Home Information Packs created in 2008, this idea is sound in principle, but it remains to be seen whether the legislation involved will suitably enforce the changes, or if (like Home Information Packs) it will merely leave loopholes to be exploited by the very rogue agents that the Government are seeking to outlaw.  On the face of it though, this appears to be a positive move from Mr Javid.

If you are buying or selling a property, please contact Andy Roscoe at Meaby&Co for advice: andy@meaby.co.uk or call 020 7703 5034.

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