Last month our Managing Director, Emma Vigus, caught up with Kate Faulkner, Chair of the Home Buying and Selling Group (HBSG).
What key initiatives are the HBSG currently working on?
The HBSG is producing regular pan-industry guidance to help professionals and consumers with the home moving process during the Covid-19 pandemic. This is proving invaluable in the face of continued uncertainty.
We recently issued the Home Buying and Selling Group Industry Pledge, supported by the Housing Minister. It explains what each profession involved in the home moving process needs to do and when, to ensure as much information as possible is provided upfront. It’s not perfect but it’s a good start to helping to reduce the pressure for everyone without placing any new obligations on the professions involved.
Aligned with the Industry Pledge, we continue to work on the Buyers and Sellers Property Information Form (BASPI) which summarises all the information that’s required on a property due to be listed. We are focusing on working out how best to deploy it and ensure that as much of the data can, where possible, be populated with validated information from trusted sources.
With the increased availability of good quality information on properties, we’ve also launched the Property Logbook Working Party. This is a particularly important initiative so it’s great to see the providers of Logbooks working together to explore how the concept can be developed to help speed up transactions and deter fall-throughs.
Another item work we have been doing a lot of work on is Leasehold, looking at several areas, including reducing the time and cost of procuring a Management Pack for a Leasehold property. We’re also particularly keen on helping Agents abide by the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (CPRs) which stipulate that Agents much disclose facts such as tenure and term remaining under the Lease within the property listing. The requirement has been in place for over a year, but our informal research suggests that many Agents aren’t complying.
We have also set up a new working group focused on Digital Identity with the aim of reducing friction and delays in the home buying and selling process by enabling a consumer to have their identity verified once and then share the verification with other relevant parties to a transaction. This is aligned with a Government initiative on Digital Identity which involves the Government working with different industries to make Digital Identity easier for everyone and, to ensure it’s fit for purpose.
Finally, we’re investigating how we can use the introduction of the Regulation of Property Agents (ROPA) framework to better educate the professions involved in the home moving process, on the needs of consumers. The majority of professionals are technically very well trained but, they don’t necessarily understand the consumer. I don’t think the Government see regulation as a ‘game changer.’ However, I think it’s the single biggest improvement the Government could deliver for consumers, particularly for tenants and for the great firms in the industry who deserve regulation to remove the less scrupulous operators.
What one change do you think the residential property industry should focus onto ensure long-term survival post lock-down?
I have two changes……
Protecting the interests of tenants is really important. Nobody should be allowed to advertise a property that’s unsafe so I’m keen to see the introduction of Property Logbooks and MOTs and increased regulation.
Secondly, we must keep talking to each other. The output from the HBSG has proved what we can deliver when we all work together, and the time is right to make changes. 34% of transactions fall through and transaction times are at 20+ weeks which is bad for business and for consumers. We know everyone is trying to do the right thing by the consumer, within their operational silo, but the industry has to collaborate so we’re all aligned and to reduce the friction that occurs, between professions, as a consumer moves through the home moving process.
The residential property industry demonstrated agility during the pandemic. How can it be improved?
The pandemic has allowed the residential property industry to prove its agility, and, for that, it should hold its head up high. That progress will encourage us to continue embracing change, but we cannot keep greeting recommendations, for change, with tidal waves of, ‘we can’t do that.’ Criticism is not a bad thing, but we need more people to tell us what they like, rather than dislike.
The HSBG is all about collaboration. How do we continue to encourage collaboration across the residential property industry?
Regulators and Trade Bodies have to look at what they do through the eyes of the consumer and ensure that the home moving process works across the professions.
Aligned with my belief is the importance of increased regulation, we have to stop bad practice in the industry. It creates barriers between the professions involved which leads to pent up frustration and blocks collaboration.
Consumers should also have the right to complain about someone’s work where that professional’s involvement in a transaction has resulted in a transaction falling through. That should apply irrespective of whether the consumer has engaged that individual.
Finally, I’d love to see regional versions of the HBSG being established with representatives from across the residential property industry.
What recent examples of collaboration delivering would you like to celebrate?
The Conveyancing Task Force – they’ve done a huge amount of work to ensure that if there’s an issue like the Pandemic, they can work effectively and quickly to make a change; ensure that everyone understands why the change is needed and that the change is applied.
Your role at the HBSG must be really challenging; what keeps your motivated?
There are amazing people working in the residential property industry and those people want to see change, but it needs to be co-ordinated. The HBSG is an organisation that co-ordinate efforts and because of the strength of the pan industry relationships that we’ve built, we’re committed to acting in the best interests of consumers.
I love moving home and I want everyone to enjoy the process as much as I do. We have an amazing market and it is in our gift to make massive changes. We will get there!