The announcement that new compulsory information, designed to help home movers make informed educated decisions about a property, must be included on all listings has been broadly welcomed by the property industry.
A property’s council tax band or rate and the property price and tenure information – for sales – must be included on all property listings by the end of May 2022 and these data fields will start to appear on portals over the coming weeks.
These changes represent the first phase of a project by the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team in partnership with industry leaders and the UK’s major property portals, to define what constitutes material information for property listings.
Developed in response to estate and letting agents’ requests for clarity on what information should be disclosed as standard when marketing a property, Part A of this three-phase project includes information that is considered material for all properties. A further two phases are being developed, which will incorporate further material information such as restrictive covenants, flood risk and other specific factors that may impact certain properties.*
As new data fields for tenure, price and council tax are added to portals, if they are left empty by an agent, this will be flagged on the listing so consumers can see what information is missing. This will link to advice on why that information is important and how it may be obtained.
National Trading Standards wants all material information to be mandatory on property listings once all three phases of the project are complete. At that stage, agents will need to include all the required information before it is listed on a property portal.
Evidence shows overwhelming support amongst agents for the mandatory disclosure of material information, with benefits cited including a reduction in unnecessary enquiries, swifter sales and fewer transaction fall-throughs.
Last year, National Trading Standards and its industry partners surveyed more than 300 agents and found that 91% agreed that a defined list of basic material information would help improve clarity for the industry; 93% supported the mandatory disclosure of information relating to property tenure; 88% agreed that leasehold details should be disclosed.
Levelling Up minister, Neil O’Brien, said: “A key part of levelling up is creating a fair and just housing system that works for everyone, and this includes supporting more first-time buyers to move onto the housing ladder.
“Far too often when buying and selling properties, deals fall through, costing young people thousands of pounds in wasted expense. By providing all the necessary information up front, this can be avoided, and it will make the process of buying a first home much easier and more cost-effective.”
Estate and letting agents will be supported to prepare for the changes at each stage by the National Trading Standards team in partnership with professional bodies and redress schemes.
A full list of the Part A material information is available on the National Trading Standards website here; this also gives an overview of the type of information that will be included in Parts B and C. Full guidance for the industry is being developed in conjunction with industry partners to cover all three phases, as well as guidance to support consumers looking to buy, sell or rent a property.
David Cox, Rightmove’s Legal and Compliance Director, said: “It’s been really encouraging to see that more than 80% of all property listings on Rightmove now include the tenure of a property; up from 70% last year before we started to encourage more agents to add this information to help with National Trading Standard’s initiative. We hope that having an industry-agreed official list of material information will better help agents know exactly all the info they need to add when they’re advertising properties.”
Rebecca Marsh, Ombudsman at The Property Ombudsman, commented: “This is a positive start along a path that will eventually see full disclosure of material information embedded not only in the ways agents conduct their business but importantly in how properties are presented on the portals. By providing more vital information at the point a consumer first becomes aware of a property, the less likely transactions are to fail, leading to higher consumer trust and confidence in the sector.”
Jason Tebb, Chief Executive Officer of OnTheMarket, said: “We are supportive of any innovations which help both our estate agent customers and our home buying consumers. We are already working on ways to enhance the properties on our site with more material information and we share the view that more transparency throughout a property transaction could lead to a smoother process for estate agents, buyers and sellers.”
Theresa Wallace, Chair of The Lettings Industry Council, remarked: “The material information project is a crucial piece of work to ensure that consumers looking at buying or renting property can make an informed decision earlier in the process. The objective is to provide consumers with more information prior to viewing a property. This will be a big change for the industry who have come together to support this initiative and The Lettings Industry Council felt it was important to be a part of a project that can have a real benefit for consumers.”
Mairead Carroll, senior specialist, land & property standards at RICS, said: “RICS is fully supportive of finding ways to improve the homebuying process for consumers. Providing more upfront and transparent data between market participants across the whole buying, selling and conveyancing process, coupled with a home survey, means buyers are able to make more informed offers, reducing the time taken for a sale to complete and avoiding unnecessary costs for all involved. There may be concerns over storing this much data but by using RICS standards, property data can be captured for a range of due diligence purposes, whether that’s to check the flood risk of a property, energy performance risks and opportunities, or whether to find out if there is a right of access to consider. The information is protected and can support governance, privacy and ethical considerations.”
Nathan Emerson, CEO of Propertymark, said: “Propertymark are supportive of the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Teams’ initiative and I am really pleased we have been able to be involved. Being able to provide transparent material information upfront is essential to helping all parties in the home buying and selling process make informed decisions. This means that consumers have a better knowledge, making the process easier, reducing fall through rates and allowing the agents and conveyancers to be more proactive and efficient. The industry has long held the goal of decreasing the time required to progress from sale agreed to completion and these improvements are in sight.”
Bryan Mansell, chief executive of Gazeal, said: “We are delighted that various industry bodies are now coming together to bring long-overdue change to the provision of key information, vital to help home movers make informed educated decisions about property. Our hope is that all estate agents and conveyancers embrace this positive move and together bring a much-needed element of trust into the moving process.”
Sean Hooker, head of redress at The Property Redress Scheme, said: “This is great news for the consumer and will lead to a much more transparent and consistent way of introducing properties to the market. It will also give clarity and assurance to agents that they are doing the right thing, will set the ground rules on what is expected and avoid the consequences of not providing a good level of information. Fewer complaints, faster transactions, happier customers, what is not to like?”
Errol Maxwell, managing director of PropertyPal, said: “PropertyPal is keen to support this positive initiative and welcomes the opportunity to contribute. As a property portal, we realise the important role we play in supporting customers on their journey to find a new home. That’s why we’re right behind NTSELAT’s efforts to ensure consumers are provided with the material information they need to ensure their property search runs smoothly. Agents too will now have clarity as to what information they are required to obtain, helping reduce transaction times and the number of deals falling through.”