High-Tech Plan to Ease the Pain of Homebuying; Electronic Documents Could Help Cut Delays in Moving

By Tirbutt, Edmund | The Mail on Sunday (London, England), August 26, 2001 | Go to article overview

High-Tech Plan to Ease the Pain of Homebuying; Electronic Documents Could Help Cut Delays in Moving


Tirbutt, Edmund, The Mail on Sunday (London, England)


Byline: EDMUND TIRBUTT

JOURNALIST Sam Barrett is bitterly counting the cost of her first attempt to climb on to the property ladder.

Sam, 33, came close to ending up homeless after a last-minute change of heart by the owner of the house she was buying.

Only a week before the exchange of contracts, with Sam having terminated her rental agreement on her flat, the seller phoned to say that he planned to let the [pound]135,000 three-bedroom house instead.

Fortunately, Sam and her boyfriend Paul, 35, a writer, were able to stay in their flat for an extra week and then managed to find another place to rent.

But Sam, of Walthamstow, north-east London, was more than [pound]1,000 out of pocket after paying for surveying, conveyancing and mortgage arrangement fees.

She says: 'By going back on his word, the seller wasted two months of my life and caused me immeasurable amounts of stress and inconvenience.

'Buyers appear to have no rights at all. It's absurd that there is no regulation.' Unfortunately, there are no plans to make such practices illegal, and even some of the proposed legislation to help reduce delays in homebuying have been put on the back burner.

The Government had intended to introduce a system in 2003 requiring sellers to produce information packs containing most of the details currently needed for surveying and conveyancing work.

But this legislation failed to get through Parliament before the General Election and is no longer an immediate priority. Experts are now talking in terms of introducing it in 2004 or 2005, if at all.

But when Parliament resumes in October it will continue to consider another measure that could slash weeks off the conveyancing-process in some regions by letting some documents be completed electronically.

Harry Hill, chief executive of national estate agent Countrywide Assured Group, says: 'Local authority searches can take five or six weeks during busy periods, but an electronic service would have them done in a day. …

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