Could plans to help homebuyers include a property logbook?

by Iain Mason

Published on 12th December 2018

Government plans to make the homebuying process easier and quicker sound like good news – and among the suggestions is a property logbook

The aim is to encourage sellers to provide more information on their properties upfront, with this transparency helping to avoid potential hitches later on in the buying process.

The current conveyancing process has been criticised by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government as taking too long and lacking in communication. The cost of failed transactions is cited at £270m a year.

Matt Prior, from the Ministry, at the recent UK Finance’s annual mortgage conference, said: “You’ve got a process where people are kind of misled. They don’t understand how long it’s going to take. People move somewhere between one and two times after they make their first home move. It’s a process consumers are pretty unfamiliar with… It should not take 19 weeks to buy a house. It should be possible to get a lot of data about the property up front.” 

Is a property logbook the solution?

One answer may be for owners to keep a property logbook, which is accessible to potential buyers so they can find out more information about a property they are interested in. This is a solution the Law Society and Conveyancing Association have called for.

In principle, we think property logbooks could be helpful. They would contain a certain amount of useful information for potential buyers, they could be kept updated by each owner and handed on to the next. Ideally, they would be kept in a digital format.

But they are by no means a complete solution. Remember HIPs, or Home Information Packs? Sometimes called a seller’s pack, these were introduced in 2004 and had to contain certain information deemed useful to buyers, such as an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC).

The government believed HIPs would lead to a reduction in the number of abortive sales but others claim they actually contributed to the 2007/09 housing crisis by deterring homeowners from marketing their properties, due the cost of preparing a HIP. They were dropped in 2010, with only the EPC surviving.

Other factors also contribute to the length of the conveyancing process, such as delays in searches taking place and mortgage applications being determined.

So, in short, property logbooks will only go so far in speeding up the conveyancing process, but the principle of better communication, in the early stages of a sale, has to be welcomed.

If you’re buying or selling a home and need advice from expert conveyancers, please get in touch with the team here at Optimum.

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