Business

Three-month home-buying delays could be reduced

woman at estate agent's window Image copyright Getty Images

Long delays in the time it takes to buy a house or flat could be reduced, under government plans for homebuyers in England and Wales.

Currently it can take up to three months between an offer being put in and contracts being exchanged.

During that time, buyers can be "gazumped" by others - meaning their offer is trumped by a rival purchaser.

The government is planning to start an inquiry into the selling process within the next few weeks.

"When you ask agents from around the world, they can't understand why in Britain it takes so long to sell a house," said Martyn Baum, president of the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA).

"In the United States, it takes just three or four weeks," he told the BBC.

Consumers currently spend £270m a year on failed housing transactions, according to figures from the Treasury.

As announced in the March Budget, the enquiry will examine how to make the process "better value for money and more consumer-friendly".

Home Reports

One option might be to adopt some aspects of the house-buying system in Scotland.

Once an offer is accepted north of the border, it becomes a binding deal as soon as the contracts, known as missives, are agreed - making the process much quicker.

Sellers also have to produce a home report, which includes a survey and energy performance certificate.

This prevents each buyer having to commission their own survey.

Another possibility might involve the buyer putting down a deposit or bond, to discourage them from backing out.

A spokesperson from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) rejected the suggestion that the Scottish system might be adopted wholesale in England and Wales.

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