The Seller’s Pack is supposed to be a solution to the problems caused by gazumping and the time taken to reach exchange of contracts in domestic conveyancing transactions. It is being piloted in Bristol, Burnley and Bradford at present.
Some preliminary information on the trials has been announced, but it is too early to say whether or not the idea will work.
These two problems have beset the conveyancing industry for many years and the Government is to be congratulated on trying to do something about them. However, whether the Seller’s Pack is the answer remains to be seen.
The idea is that at the very start of the sale process any person marketing a house for sale will be legally required to issue to prospective buyers a pack of standard information which buyers will usually only obtain after they have have their initial offer accepted “subject to contract”. Buyers will be “encouraged” to have an “in principle” mortgage offer (whatever that may mean), but it does not seem that they will be compelled to do so.
It seems clear that estate agents will be required to issue the Seller’s Pack, but it is not clear whether or not sellers will be required to produce packs in private treaty cases. The pack will, it seems, include:
l Copy title documents
l Replies to standard preliminary enquiries
l Copies of planning, building regulation and listed building consents
l Copies of new property warranties and guarantees
l Copies of any guarantees for work carried out to the property
l Draft contract
l Replies to standard local authority searches
l A professional surveyor’s “home condition” report (with energy efficiency assessment).
For leasehold properties it will also include:
l Copy of the lease
l Copies of the most recent service charge accounts and receipts;
l Buildings insurance details and premium receipts
l Landlord/management company regulations
l Memorandum and articles of association of the management company.
It has been estimated that the pack will cost £500 to prepare. With increased electronic data transference this may come down, but, I suspect, not by much. The fact remains, however, that this will be “up front” expenditure to be borne by the vendor before contracts have been exchanged.
The trials will not test this aspect of the proposals fully because the Government has, in Bristol, arranged for the packs to be free of charge to sellers so as to ensure that there is sufficient take-up to provide a proper test to the time-scales and how helpful the packs are to all parties.
The final report on the Bristol project is due out on 2 November with, it is understood, any follow-up legislation due in January 2003.