Select Committee on Office of the Deputy Prime Minister: Housing, Planning, Local Government and the Regions Written Evidence

Memorandum by Maria Coleman FNAEA CertREA, M.Coleman Estate Agents (DHB 02)

  I write as an independent estate agent in Bristol with two offices, one in Kingswood-urban city housing and this office has a staff of four full-timers and two part-timers. The other office in Downend, Bristol, with a staff of four full-timers and one part-timer. This second office is the more prestigious type of housing.

  I would welcome the opportunity of giving a presentation to the Select Committee as I believe my first hand experience over a seven-year period would be invaluable to provide evidence of how "Home Information Packs" actually work in the real world. My company has done over 700 of these packs and I can provide innumerable case histories whereby sales have been saved by having the preparation of information carried out in advance. I would like to explain how much heartache this saves.

  I started doing "Sellers Packs" in 1996 from my Kingswood office, low cost housing and at that time the average three Bed Victorian Terrace with ground floor bathroom was in the region of £38,500. Lovely ordinary hard working people with very little spare cash, they took pride in their homes, but in the main whilst the cosmetics of the properties looked fine, the major problems beneath the surface caused problems at time of sale eg timber and damp, electrics, roofs, subsidence etc. All solvable, if one knows about these things in advance. I can provide proof!!

  We have learnt by our mistakes over the years and believe we have now perfected the solutions to the benefit of the consumer and thus this has also improved my business results.

  My sellers have a choice, the traditional route or the sellers pack route. 98% of my private vendors with homes older than ten-years old, choose the sellers' pack route. The Consumers love it!!

  My fall through rate was 26%—it is now 4.6% and those fall throughs are usually on the properties without a HIP. An amazing change for my business, but an incredible benefit to the customer. My withdrawal rate was 28% it is now 3%. We charge them no up front fee in advance, we carry out a diagnostic survey with all the necessary reports commissioned, the buyer is able to read the survey free of charge and we give everyone a secure pin number to read their on line sales tracking 24 hours a day. How good is that—of course the consumer loves it, they get complete transparency and certainty that the deal will go through first time around. There can be no doubt this is a much better way of doing business, more work for the property professional in the first instance—but that is why they get paid a fee. However, time saved later on in the transaction by not having to be reactive about failed sales more than compensates for the extra work at the beginning.

  I would urgently ask for an interview, we have insurance products, eg withdrawal insurance to protect the consumer and insurance of last resort to indemnify the pack.

  I would also be willing to ask some of my consumers, both sellers and buyers to comment, if you so wish.

Maria Coleman FNAEA CertREA

M.Coleman Estate Agents

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