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

Memorandum by Chamberlains Estate Agents and Chartered Surveyors (DHB 03)

  We are a firm of estate agents and Chartered Surveyors with a single office in Kingsteignton, near Newton Abbot, Devon. My wife and I are both Chartered Surveyors and started the firm in 1998. My wife, Angela Chamberlain heads up the agency side of the business and is also a Chartered Surveyor. Angela has a background in commercial valuation, residential surveys and valuation, agency, land, and planning matters. I have experience in construction cost control, building surveying, and design.

  We soon realised just how frustrating and archaic the home buying/selling process is. We therefore took a keen interest in the government's research into improving the system.

  In January 2002 we started offering the SAVA Pre Sale Survey to our vendor clients. It was soon clear to us that a good proportion of vendors saw the potential benefits to them and took up the service, voluntarily paying an increased agency fee. Once reports were available, buyers were keen to tell us that they thought it was very useful to have this information. The style of the report has also proved easy to read—and, perhaps more importantly, easy to focus on matters that might be of concern. During 2002 we carried out approximately 70 pre-sale surveys. Of these, about 10% had significant defects that, previously, would have led to later renegotiation or sales falling through. With the benefit of this information, buyers did not renegotiate and the fall through rate for these properties (where not withdrawn by the vendor prior to sale) was zero.

  The surveys are produced via computer software which has made the reports very quick to compile. Whilst the survey inspection takes the same time as any other Home Buyer's type survey, the report can be compiled easily normally within an hour.

  We are now looking at how we can incorporate the remainder of the proposed pack. There appear to be only two further "stages" if we look at it logically:

  1.  SEARCHES: Land Registry documents & Local Authority searches can be obtained all as part of a single application by us at a click of a mouse via NLIS channel providers such as Searchflow. If we, as the estate agent were to order this information for the HIP, we would only be involved in about 10-15 minutes work, whilst Searchflow did the rest. By 2006, I would like to think that Local authorities have come "on-line" with NLIS so that all this information can be returned within 24-48 hours as it can now in some areas. Cost approx £200. Conveyancers usually ask for a figure in this region up front to cover such "disbursements" under the present system. So, although the government has added this cost to the HIP, they need not have done. The only additional cost (if no buyer survey would have been carried out before) will normally be the HCR which will be relatively inexpensive due to its focus on condition rather than description and condition of elements within a property.

  2.  VENDOR SUPPLIED INFORMATION: All other documentation such as Fixtures & Fittings lists, Warranties, Property information form, Planning permissions, etc will come from the vendor although I would expect that we would assist the vendor where necessary and provide the required standard forms. Compiling this information could take a matter of hours, but will depend largely on how quickly the clients themselves wished to proceed.

  What this tells us is that there is a fairly simple process in compiling a Home Information Pack. In practical terms there are three operations for the estate agent to manage: 1. HCR, 2. SEARCHES (incl. Land Registry Docs), 3. VENDOR SUPPLIED INFORMATION. Leasehold properties will, as they do now, add a degree of complication to the system in the short term until people realise that it is wise to obtain management accounts etc well in advance of instructing an estate agent.

  The recent U-turn by the National Association of Estate Agents is a great shame and statements made by them discredit them as a professional body due to their misunderstanding of how the new housing market system will operate. For example, they state that HIPs will not be needed due to the development of e-conveyancing. Even those developing the model for e-conveyancing have been clear in stating that HIPs are a complementary part of e-conveyancing as HIPs will ensure that all the information that needs to be communicated instantaneously is actually available in the first place! It would be pointless having an e-conveyancing system whereby one still had to wait for the searches to be ordered, fixtures and fittings forms to be completed, and surveys to be carried out.

  The HIPs will provide clarity and transparency to the home buying/selling process whilst enabling the successful operation of a future e-conveyancing process. Our experience of the SAVA Pre Sale Survey is that we can produce it quickly, vendors see the point to it, buyers openly tell us how useful it is, and most importantly it has led to fewer problems and thus a lower fall out rate.

  When every property comes to the market with a HIP our clients will be able to benefit as their buyers do now. In a compulsory environment the true benefits of HIPs will become clear as delays in chains are dramatically reduced.

Edward & Angela Chamberlain

Chamberlains Estate Agents & Chartered Surveyors

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2003
Prepared 12 June 2003