The Government may currently have more pressing decisions to make but, when a sense of normality can be resumed, we will hear more on how it intends to improve things on the home front as the Homes Bill makes its way through Parliament.
House buying and selling is infamously stressful. Annually, abortive sales are estimated to cost consumers around pounds 350m, and, in theory at least, this legislation will make the process easier and quicker by introducing compulsory seller's packs, which will include legal searches and a home condition report.
Last year's pilot study in Bristol, with its free seller's packs for participants, was declared a success by what was then the DETR (now the Department of Transport, Local Government and Regions, DTLR) and this month the Surveyors and Valuers' Accreditation Service (Sava) announced a "revolutionary change in the type and timing of residential surveys" at its London launch. Commissioned by the seller, or by an estate agent on the seller's behalf, the new survey is a forerunner to the home condition report, which will be mandatory if the Homes Bill becomes law.
Hilary Grayson of Sava is selling her four-bedroomed house in East Dulwich using a pre-sale survey which potential buyers can see before even visiting the property. "It is like buying a car with an MOT," says Grayson. "It's an in-depth look, upfront. We're asking pounds 275,000 and hope to avoid a situation whereby, days before exchange, someone says that repairs will cost pounds 5,000 and can we reduce the price."
Grayson's property has been assessed as being in good condition, but the report has flagged up a couple of urgent repairs. Is she worried about scaring buyers off? "No. It is nothing that they wouldn't see later in the process anyway." She has now carried out some repairs but doesn't believe this invalidates the report. "We can attach receipts for any work we've done so a buyer can see what they're getting."
Stephen Smith of Property in Dulwich is marketing Ms Grayson's house. Has the survey made a difference? "The jury's still out. They haven't exactly been rushing so I don't think it's made much difference so far." Property in Dulwich is an innovatory agency, where applicants can access properties via a web page, but he has reservations as to whether the proposals in the Homes Bill will work. "The industry should have done more during the consultation period. They've missed the boat because they haven't got off their bottoms and done anything about it."
Smith has encouraged other vendors to have pre-sale surveys but with no success. "There's always reluctance to spend money, it's human nature. But I'm speculating; I …