The three worst ways of speeding up the buying and selling process.

The government’s review into ways of speeding up the house buying and selling process has already resulted in predictable responses from the usual pundits – all somewhat reminiscent of Groundhog Day!  What is wrong with their apparently simple solutions?


1.‘Reservation agreements’ – where the buyer and seller each place a deposit, which would be forfeited in the event of either withdrawing from the deal. 

At first sight, this sounds eminently sensible; however, the devil is in the detail!

In our experience of various sales involving non-refundable deposits, it can take as long for the lawyers to agree this sort of detail as it can for them to reach exchange of contracts!


2. A variant of HIPs (‘Home Information Packs’)

HIPs were introduced in 2007 as a means of speeding the sale process; they included information on Title, the Property Information Form, a ‘sale statement’, the Energy Performance Certificate, Local Authority and Drainage searches, a ‘Home Condition Report’ (a vendor’s survey undertaken by a recognised ‘Home Inspector’), ‘Home Use’ and ‘Home contents’ forms and a legal summary.

Plus ca change……


3. ‘The Scottish system’ – where an agreement is held to be binding from acceptance of an offer.    

Seen to offer the advantage of making the sale agreement binding at a much earlier stage than the English system. However:

The system therefore means that buyers, when entering into the agreement, have to be in a position to exchange contracts. This implies that:

The vast majority of the English market is made up of buyers and sellers trying to co-ordinate their sale and purchase (often resulting in long ‘chains’ of transactions) – there is an extreme reluctance to rent in between sale and purchase. Adopting the Scottish system would represent a substantial culture shock and, inevitably, deter a large number of people from selling, without the certainty that they will find the right property to purchase by doing so.