Estate agents fail to provide up-front information despite perceived benefits

More than 80% of UK estate agents surveyed think that the provision of up-front information at the very start of the homebuying process will improve the buying and selling experience, and yet just 30% have already made efforts to provide such information for the homes they list, new research shows.

Since June 2022, Part A of Trading Standards reform has stated that estate agents should provide material information such as price, leasehold terms, and council tax information for their property listings.

In November of last year, Trading Standards published Parts B and C of their material information guidance which state agents should also include in their marketing materials insights such as the building materials used, information about utilities and parking, and any details around issues such as flood risk or restrictive covenants.

This guidance is designed to provide prospective buyers with the information they require to make an informed purchase decision at the start of their journey rather than having to go out and find it for themselves later down the road, thus speeding up the buying and selling process.

To gain proper insight into agent sentiment regarding the provision of up-front information, Home Sale Pack surveyed more than 500 UK agents with the results showing overwhelming industry support for the proposition.

The survey shows that 73% of agents think the new Trading Standards guidance (B and C) is a good idea and a positive move for the agency sector.

Furthermore, 83% believe more broadly that supplying up-front information to homebuyers at the very start of the transaction journey will improve the buying and selling process.

As for the specific benefits, 79% of agents believe up-front information will speed up the buying and selling process, while 83% say it will reduce the number of transactions that fall-through.

When asked what parts of the buying-selling process are worst impacted by the current lack of up-front information, nearly half of agents – 48% – said the conveyancing stage during which the absence of up-front information results in significant delays.

Almost a quarter of agents – 23% – responded to say that it’s the negotiation and offer stage of the journey that is most negatively impacted by a lack of information provision.

Despite this clear support for up-front information packs, agents accept that there are obstacles which need to be overcome if it is to become a mainstay of the industry.

Some 33% say that the biggest barrier is how time consuming it currently is to gather all of the necessary information, while 27% say the fact that up-front information is not a legal requirement is hampering universal adoption.

Of those that took part in the study, 16% blame a lack of proactivity from buyers and sellers; 12% say they do not have the manpower required to gather the information; and another 12% say the biggest barrier is the fact that the necessary information is stored in too many disparate locations.

As such, there is widespread belief among agents that legislation should be introduced to make the provision of up-front information a legal requirement, something that is supported by 66% of respondents.

Meanwhile, a quarter – 25% – believe that information provision can be best improved and, therefore, more widely adopted with the help of a third-party technology provider making it fast and easy to collate the required information.

While it is  clear that the vast majority of agents support all moves towards including comprehensive information in their marketing materials, actual industry uptake remains lacklustre.

When asked if they or their business has already made operational changes in line with the new Trading Standards guidance in order to better obtain and provide upfront information for the homes they list, just 32% said ‘yes’, while 68% said ‘no’.

Ruth Beeton, co-founder of Home Sale Pack, said: “Some things in life and business are just common sense, and the widespread support for up-front information packs shows that this is one of those things. It helps buyers, sellers, agents, and conveyancers in one fell swoop.

“Despite the lack of meaningful industry backlash against either the recent evolution of Trading Standards guidance or the broader subject of improved and more timely information provision, we’re yet to see sufficient uptake to allow for meaningful change.

“While some form of legislation might indeed strongarm agents into adopting the practice, we don’t believe the industry has time to wait for the sluggish government machine to catch up. Therefore, we hope that platforms like Home Sale Pack will make the process of collecting and presenting material information so easy that it will provide the impetus required to drive widespread industry change, improving the state of the UK housing market forever and for good.”

 

x

Email the story to a friend



25 Comments

  1. Shaun Adams

    This is law. Trading Standards can and will enforce the law. Don’t put your head in the sand, get compliant.

    [Emma Cooke from National Trading Standards Estate & Letting Agency Team advised me after they announced parts B & C in November 2023 that this information should be on all listings in the text. The public can report agents to Redress Schemes or Trading Standards on failure to provide the full information. TS will be enforcing and assessing on a case-by-case basis.] –

    As a business, we are fully on top of it and include it on our PDF property details. We collate data ourselves and from the sellers, we use Sprift for our data but many items like Broadband speed etc you can google. As long as agents do the checks and can show they have looked to obtain the facts this will suffice. TS don’t expect surveys etc to be done and more expense for agents to be incurred. TS have looked at what we do and are happy.

    Report
    1. colmac

      As buying agents, we should welcome anything that improves the buyer’s experience. However, we are concerned at the time delay implied by complying meaningfully to Part C:
      – Part C requires disclosure of Title issues such as restrictive covenants, rights, easements, etc. which, in all probability, will require the opinion of the vendors’ conveyancer. As welcome as it is to involve the lawyer early, the time it will take for them to confirm their clients’ instructions, satisfy AML, etc., obtain a copy of the Title and then report back implies an inevitable delay in commencing marketing.
      – An even greater delay is implied by Section 4 of Part C – which requires disclosure of ‘nearby planning permissions or proposals for development that might be material to the consumer’s transactional decision’…… To satisfy this, an agent almost certainly needs to undertake Local Authority Searches – which might be forecast to take up to four months!! Alarmist? – don’t think so:
      o Currently local searches take, say, two weeks
      o They are normally only requested once a sale has been agreed.
      o Say one in every four instructions converts to a sale
      o From marketing to agreement often exceeds three months – conveyancers tend to regard local searches as being out of date in three months.
      o So, if searches for every house are required pre-marketing, this predicts an increase in search requests by ca. 8 times – which potentially implies a delay of 16 weeks from instruction to marketing!

      ….and why is the address of the property not regarded as material information…?!

      Report
      1. Shaun Adams

        Hi Colmac – simply not true

        The £3 Title Register provides the info re restrictive covenants, rights, easements…
        The seller will know about planning in the hyper-local vicinity – if they don’t, an agent isnt expected to get searches done.
        The address is in the Mat Info

        Report
        1. Rob Hailstone

          Unfortunately, you will usually need more that the Title Register Shaun, often the covenants, rights, easements and restrictions that are contained in other docs, are only referred to in the £3.00 doc. Conveyancer involvement would not only help with MI (some of those covenants, rights, easements and restrictions might need explaining), but also in preparing, earlier on, a full contract pack.

          Report
          1. Shaun Adams

            Rob: This is from National Trading Standards (they do not suggest a conveyancer to provide this)

            Obtaining and Verifying Information
            We recommend that property agents take steps to ensure their clients are identified as the
            person or people with the right(s) to sell the property. This might be achieved by checking
            clients’ identification against the property title or deeds, or by checking relevant lease
            agreements or contracts.
            Where possible throughout this guidance, reference has been added to where property agents
            and owners/sellers might obtain and/or verify the information from to be included on a property
            advertisement.

            ■ Asking the seller/owner (verify the information against other sources, where available)
            ■ HM Land Registry Title documents and boundary plans
            ■ Local Authorities (through Local Authority search)
            ■ The Local Authority Planning Team/portal
            ■ Water and Drainage Authorities (through Water and Drainage search)
            ■ The Coal Authority
            ■ The Environment Agency
            Property agents can outsource the collation and verification of material information to third
            party suppliers, where relevant and necessary. If there are any additional costs to the client
            for the provision of these services, those costs should be reasonable, transparent, and not
            hidden.
            However, there is nothing to prevent the seller from obtaining the information (a copy of the
            title/lease) themselves and providing a copy to the agent at the beginning of the process, when
            in contract.

            Report
            1. Rob Hailstone

              They do say, on numerous occasions:

              “The seller/owner, conveyancer, and property surveyor should be able to provide elements of this information to the agent.”

              TS would also like conveyancer involvement earlier on so that some potential buyers are not put off of making an offer because of any legal misunderstanding.

              Report
              1. Shaun Adams

                I suppose your role in the Bold Legal Group steers you towards paying a conveyancer to provide this info even if TS don’t insist on this. As an agent we need to make things workable in the real world with other agents having their heads in the sand. I have had TS check what we do and implemented their suggestions.

                Mat Info is before viewings. We provide a full pack along the lines of draft contracts to someone thinking of offering after the viewing.

                Report
                1. Rob Hailstone

                  I salute what you are doing Shaun. We will have to see how the situation develops.

                  Report
                  1. Shaun Adams

                    Thanks, as we all know further guidance will change. I respect your knowledge Rob. Change is needed in England’s awful moving process to provide more professionalism, transparency, speed and security. Other countries can do it and so can we.

                    Report
              2. Ric

                The agent can get it themselves most of the time. Bar questions which ONLY the owner can answer.

                The sources of information are not exclusively available to Solicitors to my knowledge, if they are, I’ve managed to navigate past that issue and did so on 1st December. (Not looking for a pat on the back but Estate Agents need to get it sorted themselves. Not hard and might even be cheaper for both them and the clients!)

                Report
        2. colmac

          With all due respect, Shaun, Rob is right – where restrictive covenants etc are involved, it will only be the conveyance/s from which Title is devolved that will provide the detail (and I defy the average estate agent to accurately interpret legal documents).
          Yours quoting TS (of 10:00) actually confirms my point – as to ‘where property agents and owners/sellers might obtain and/or verify the information; the third bullert-point ‘Local Authorities (through local authority searches)’…..
          See also page 32 of the TS Guidance document of Nov 2023.
          Researching the local authority planning portal is fine when it comes to consents granted on the property and its neighbours – but is highly unlikely to highlight a proposal for 50 or more houses half a mile away, or for nearby highway improvements (both, if taking the recommended ‘pragmatic approach’, could be classed as ‘immediate locality’)..
          Regarding the address – I am afraid the word doesn’t appear anywhere in the NTS Guidance document (important as, in our experience, it is by no means uncommon to find agents promoting properties on property portals, their own websites and even their particulars without more than a street or first part of a postcode).
          I am not picking a fight (or trying to be unduly alarmist) – but if you reassure buyers that they have all the information material to their making a transactional decision, they might be tempted to believe you. If they subsequently discover that there is a proposal for major development in the neigbourhood, I would not be surprised if they didn’t raise a complaint with Trading Standards…..

          Report
          1. Shaun Adams

            Colmac… agents now have to display this upfront information, TS have asked agents to provide information from the Title on restrictions. You are suggesting a conveyancer needs to provide this information for a potential buyer to see before they view. I presume in your view a potential viewer needs to have this looked at by their own conveyancer before they decide to view or not.

            I feel you are taking this to the extreme and making it unworkable and alarmist.

            This legislation is ‘extra info before a viewing’ NOT ‘information before signing a contract to buy.’

            Report
    2. Ric

      It is law, but I beg to differ with the TS will enforce the law, despite the fact they can…

      This will be a very clear case of only when a complaint is made and the lack of info is the cause will that ONE agent then do it moving forward.

      So on and so forth…

      Yet it is the most measurable piece of legislation in place but half way through Feb, and still being too widely ignored.

      Not even sure why I care anymore but for the fact, how much business do compliant agents lose when a potential seller looks at compliant marketing and thinks, I ain’t using that Estate Agent because my garden floods. (I could point out half a dozen houses OTM in my area which have no B & C info and if they did they would have to be mentioning issues)

      Report
  2. CSM

    I’m not an estate agent but a property buyer/owner. Frankly it would be nice if the agent showing you around the property had better information at the viewing stage. What’s the council tax band/ how much is this. Is it mains water/drainange/gas/electric/oil/lpg etc – in rural areas you can assume nothing but they matter – Is it a south facing garden – nearly always a yes when a quick check of a map often confirms it is no such thing! Why fib, now I don’t trust you or anything you have just told me. What is the local area like? Local amenities ? Is there any planned development nearby? – if you selling in a given area you really should have some clue what is happening around the property concerned. Not all your potential buyers live in the area already, many will not. Is it liable to flooding? Most of this stuff does not require a great deal of research but this sort of stuff does matter to a potential buyer. At the end of the day there is no point in a sale that is going to fall over down the line for any party concerned. Some upfront information would be good. Its the most expensive thing most people will ever buy and frankly the decision to go ahead is often based on very poor information hoping that nothing turns up later down the line to change your mind. Some agents are great but some don’t even have a floorplan, never mind any clue about the property they are “selling ” you. Would you buy a car from someone who couldn’t tell you if it was petrol or diesel, the mpg, tax rate etc – no you would not. Buyers want information and reassurance that they are making the right choice. Anything that standardises the quality of information gets my vote.

    Report
    1. Shaun Adams

      Hi CSM, all this information legally now has to be visible on the agent’s website and portals like Rightmove from the outset.

      Report
      1. CSM

        Not all of it no, is it liable to flooding , can’t recall seeing that one covered anywhere, Are they building a prison down the road, another no . When you are viewing several properties in a day if you are from out of area you don’t always recall all the stuff as you go round, if you ask a question is it really too much to expect the person “selling” it to know?

        Report
        1. Shaun Adams

          Yes local flooding and Planning is Part C and now legally required to be displayed on the agent’s website and portals like Rightmove.

          Report
    2. jan-byers

      How about doing somethin g for yourself?
      Caveat Emptor

      Report
      1. Ric

        Oh Jan-buyers… come on, I thought we had found common ground not so long ago…

        If I am reading your post with the correct mind-set

        caveat emptor is not allowed… honestly, why would anyone not welcome a slicker house buying process.

        You often go in on EA’s yet this comment is the epitome of what is wrong with the industry… “find out yourself, not my problem for the £10k fee I collect”

        Report
  3. jan-byers

    This is exactly why EA are no longer sales people
    They are just admin clerks

    Report
    1. Ric

      oh no oh no oh no there you go… you want us to sell to someone by saying “find it out yourself”…

      Not much of a sell is it.

      But humour me and imagine if you have a “house hunter” who works from home 4 days a week reliant on the tinternet and being able to say (AKA sell) to them “This one has FTTP” as opposed to the other agents home which has a stop sell on FTTC and no access currently to FTTP (daft example perhaps) but this info can actual help you “sell” it helps the agent as much as the buyer.

      Written words AKA Amin is also a selling tool!

      Report
      1. Ric

        *admin

        Report
      2. jan-byers

        How many this does that actually happen in your business in a year?
        As you say a daft example.
        And how many hours wasted by staff doing admin and not selling?
        You say I “go in ” on EAs.
        My issue is that many staff are no longer sales people.
        They are admin clerks.
        Go past most E Aoffices and you do not see people on the phone ringing anyone.
        They are tapping on a keyboard.
        When I instruct an agent I want them to be on the phone ringing people trying to sell .
        Not fiddling around with admin.
        Caveat emptor is not allowed? So let us spoon feed everyone on the planet.
        This is the modern world, no one wants to take responsiblity for their own decisions, if something goes awry it has to be someone else’s fault.
        When I am buying a house or a site I do MY OWN research. Because I am spending MY money.
        Therefore it is MY responsibilty.

        Report
        1. Ric

          So you would happily buy a car say which said: (for example, other car makes available)

          Mini Cooper Sport – £8,500 – Great Car.

          You will argue a point I am sure… But not everyone has perhaps the background you have,

          Elderly couple I have just met, lovely, 48 years in their bungalow, looking to sell and buy an apartment. Do we just assume they can sort it themselves and be expected to do work pre solicitor stage as to not waste their time viewing stuff which just would not be right if they had know about increasing ground rents etc.

          Report
          1. Ric

            When I say buy… I mean, travel say 100 miles as it really does sound a beauty and you are keen oh so very keen for a mini Cooper as described. You get there and rust, Cat D, smoker, lots of things not easy to find out as the car buyer, but all the things you would like to have known to save you the journey as it is an absolute NO NO with these things.

            Again, I doubt you will see the point, as the replies have staggered me a bit that you think saying less is more and buyers should do all the research themselves.

            Report
X

You must be logged in to report this comment!

Leave a reply

If you want to create a user account so you can log in, click here

Thank you for signing up to our newsletter, we have sent you an email asking you to confirm your subscription. Additionally if you would like to create a free EYE account which allows you to comment on news stories and manage your email subscriptions please enter a password below.