Private property sales to be made easier

Property websites will be given greater freedom to facilitate property sales under new proposals from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).

The proposals mean that websites that display private property sales advertisements but do not get involved in the process of sale will no longer have have to comply with the rules set down to estate agents under the 1979 Estate Agents Act.

The Estate Agents Act currently requires all property websites to check information and descriptions provided in advertisements are accurate. The planned changes will remove this responsibility which is expected to bring costs for such site down.

Jo Swinson, Consumer Affairs Minister, said:

"These intermediaries help buyers and sellers contact each other at a low cost, but don't engage in other estate agent activities, so it's unfair to expect them to go out and check all the property details of all the sellers on their websites.

“Reducing the regulations for these businesses will open up the market and increase choices for consumers looking to save costs when buying or selling a property.”

Traditional estate agents normally charge a fee for advertising a property on behalf of a seller or for any advice that they offer. Comparitively, property websites that offer a space to advertise for private sales may be an attractive low cost option to sellers.

However, the proposals have been met with criticism from some industry professionals.

Peter Bolton King, from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, said:

“Businesses that do not sell property but merely publish adverts or information, known as ‘passive intermediaries’, are now specifically outside the scope of the Act. This means that prospective homebuyers and sellers will find it harder to distinguish between these intermediaries and traditional estate agents.

“Consumers could, perhaps unknowingly, be left responsible for undertaking their own detailed sale negotiations without the advice and guidance of a property professional. This could lead to delays, increased costs and even sales falling through, causing frustration and stress for all involved.”

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