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Levelling Up and the housing market

I will forgive you if you didn’t read all 332 pages of the Government’s recent Levelling Up White Paper. It was an incredibly long document and reminds me of that publishing ‘joke’ which asks, ‘What do you need most to be a good writer?’ Answer: ‘A good editor’.

However, there was clearly a lot in there to interest housing market stakeholders, conveyancing practitioners, and indeed us as your trade body, not least what appears to be a continued ‘commitment’ to delivering upfront information ‘digitally wherever possible from trusted and authenticated sources, and provided only once’.

The direction of travel has been that way within Government, and specifically the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLHC), for quite some time though, and you’ll notice a slight sense of frustration that we appear to still be on the journey towards Property Packs of this nature, when the destination seems absolutely obvious to all.

In a way, you might ask what are we waiting for? Or, perhaps more pertinently, what are we being asked to wait for? Who is making us wait? And who can ensure the wait comes to an end sooner rather than later?

The CA’s own research for our White Paper outlined what was to be gained by the provision of such information, the international comparisons which proved a much lower fall-through rate, the fact that 98% of consumers surveyed thought it was a good idea and would be willing to pay for it. I could go on.

In fact I will, because for member firms it is likely to mean a considerable uplift in case turnaround, it will make your pipeline turn three times faster, meaning you can complete more business, plus all the time delays and costs incurred for transactions that fall through would be considerably diminished.

There is the suggestion within the Levelling Up paper that the Government will legislate if the industry doesn’t act. But when does a suggestion need to be a concrete commitment? It’s worth noting that the Home Buying & Selling Group has worked on the BASPI, Property Packs, Property Logbooks, Digital ID, ROPA, Leasehold Reform and Reservation Agreements.

All are ready to be delivered but I’m afraid there are still some vested interests within our sector who are pushing back quite vigorously and there are still barriers in place preventing the delivery of upfront information.

In other words, the Government does need to legislate to mandate the Property Pack, to ensure that all those measures, products and services become a formal part of the process, and to deliver the benefits that are already clear to all, including the Government itself.

Politically, I understand that some in Government might think ‘Property Packs’ sounds a bit too much like ‘Home Information Packs’ however this is nowhere near a HIPs repeat and, given we are over a decade on from their demise, and the benefits that digitisation now offer us in terms of sourcing and providing the upfront information required are huge, it’s our sincere belief they will not be repeating what they might believe to be the mistakes of the past.

These packs, and the provision of this information, will make a huge difference, however it is not going to magically happen without Government legislation. There is so much support for these elements but the current set-up, namely the barriers we will all have seen and encountered, are stopping us from delivering the full benefits to every single business and individual who takes part in the home purchase process.

We are so very close – the work has been done – but it requires Michael Gove and his department to go one step further and turn this into reality. The CA, the HBSG, and numerous organisations and bodies, are here to support and do whatever we can to highlight the changes needed, what benefits they bring to the industry and  consumers and, somewhat importantly, how to make them work.

The time is right to do this and the time is now.

Nicky Heathcote is Non-Executive Chair at the Conveyancing Association (CA)

 


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