‘Faster sales should be the goal’ – industry veteran

The government should do more to improve the home buying and selling process, according to Steve Richmond, General Manager UK&I at Reapit, who has extensive experience leading operations at some of the UK’s most prominent estate and letting agency groups.

 

Evidence submitted to parliament

In a recent submission to an enquiry by the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee Commons Select Committee, industry technology provider Reapit highlighted several innovations from its other markets that could improve the home buying and selling process in England. They include:

  • Sellers being pre-qualified with finance and due-diligence details, to be shared digitally with agents and conveyancers by mortgage lenders.
  • Requiring lenders to guarantee mortgage offers for six months to reduce the chance of finance being withdrawn during the sale.
  • Including searches and surveys when a property comes to markets, which will help agents accurately value property, provide more information to buyers upfront, and reduce duplication of work – which in turn would cut the number of days properties remain on the market, as seen in some parts of Australia.
  • Licensing estate agents to prevent a small minority of bad agents from derailing complex property chains.
  • Introduce a cooling-off period to sales contracts. This would allow buyers to take the property off the market sooner while compensating the vendor if they subsequently withdraw an offer. In Australia, this helps contracts to be signed earlier in the house-buying process.

 

Other markets show possibility of a better sales process

These policies are already in place in some states in Australia, where Reapit is the market leader in estate agency technology, and results in agents making more sales in less time. Properties in Australia are on the market for 30 – 40 days on average before being sold. In comparison, according to Zoopla it takes 25 weeks from listing to exchange in the UK.

“There is a lot of duplication in the house buying process at the moment, with the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team mandating agents to provide material information parts A, B & C when a property is listed. Together, the material information required covers a lot of the details included in searches and surveys,” explains Richmond.

“Rather than sellers undertaking searches and surveys to help agents satisfy material information needs, and buyers performing similar searches and surveys when they put in an offer, it would be easier for all if those documents were provided upfront to prospective buyers, as is the case in parts of Australia.

“Similarly, estate agencies and mortgage lenders both undertake know-your-customer checks (KYC) on buyers, which is a duplication. Instead, we should encourage buyers to become pre-qualified and have financing in place. Agents should then be able to rely on the KYC done to approve that loan.

“We see from the experience of our colleagues in New South Wales that the sales process is much faster when information is provided upfront. This extra detail and introducing a cooling-off period means agents can get contracts signed sooner and make more sales in less time. Given the time it takes to sell a property in England, faster sales should be the goal.”

 

Benefits from regulation

“We’ve also seen the positive impact of licensing and qualifications across different states in Australia. Even in the UK, research in Scotland by the Chartered Institute for Housing proves this, showing that 87% of letting agents with a qualification felt it improved their professional capabilities. Meanwhile, only 16% of landlords thought there had been no impact from mandatory qualifications.

“We feel it is something agents should embrace given the high compliance burdens they face. According to Propertymark, some 150 laws, 300 regulations, and decisions made by seven government departments impact the property sector.”.

 

Experience wins out

“Wherever we operate, Reapit brings the wealth of experience gained in all our markets to our customers. What we learn in other markets can help drive more efficient sales and lettings processes, not just through our technology, but also through sensible market reforms. We look forward to working with industry and the government to build a better property sector for all.”