Why does HMG spend millions on house buying symptoms when we all know the cure

Tuesday, September 20, 2011 by Ed Mead

What a load of guff, of course the practice given the name gazanging [sellers pulling out because they can’t find anything to buy] this week has been around for aeons, and surfaces whenever supply is short. In normal market conditions such practices are short lived, but this is not a normal market. Despite the actual number of such events being about the same, because of the low volume market we appear to be stuck in it merely seems to be more, and it’ll most likely stay that way for a few years yet. 

 Unsurprisingly a hefty percentage of complaints about agents, like gaz-whatever it is, arise precisely because of the bulls**t buying and selling system we have in place. Given that a buyer or seller can pull out of a transaction at any point they like during the process up until exchange of contracts [and it’s not unheard of to pull out after exchange and lose a 5% deposit in a falling market] it shouldn’t surprise anyone that it’s the agents’ ombudsman that gets it in the neck, despite agents having nothing whatsoever to do with the discredited system. A good agent should not advise a seller to actually remove a property from the market once an offer has been agreed as many buyers pull out after four of five weeks and the seller has then lost out on prime marketing time. A simple agreement not to treat [olde worlde speak for “deal with another buyer”] for a reasonable period, say two weeks, should out the prospective buyer as a good ‘un, or shop them up as a timewaster. If someone else does offer they’re held in reserve should the fist bidder pull out. Before you exclaim how awful remember there’s no reason why a buyer can’t offer to buy two or three properties at once, deciding perhaps to only go ahead with the seller who acquiesces most if they decide to be ruthless and reduce their bid.

 I took part in the OFT Home buying and selling study and it never ceases to amaze me that HMG is willing to chuck millions at fringe issues without dealing with the core one, the buying process. I’ve said it before but HMG loves the fact that selling a house in the UK is so cheap, cheapest in the Western World in fact, and reforming the system could result in more certainty for both sides but probably at the cost of increased fees. Luckily it appears that some commercial outfits are willing to attempt a high profile conversation on the subject, and it would be good if someone in authority listens. 

This is a treatable illness, and we reckon we know the cure, so why spend millions on the symptoms.